Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Review: Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond (TV miniseries)

And already was

By Morris Dean

The Hollywood Reporter nails it when it comes to BBC America's recent TV miniseries Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond: "It's a fun romp that illustrates how desperately the dashing author wanted to live a large life – and tried his hardest." Fleming, of course, for those too young to have heard of him – even if they have seen any number of 007 James Bond movies and maybe even heard of Sean Connery – is author Ian Fleming.
Ian Fleming and Sean Connery on the set of Dr. No
    Fleming was also a British naval intelligence officer during World War II, and it's that career that the miniseries addresses in four installments. It premiered on US television on January 29, but you can find it still on one of the on-demand offerings.
    The question I had watching (and much enjoying) the series was to what extent the filmmakers had made Fleming already be Bond more than a dozen years before he wrote the first James Bond novel, for the story of the miniseries is a good deal more dramatically interesting than any of the 007 movies...and perhaps more interesting than the books, although it has been many years since I read them.
    I also wondered whether the idea of having a dead body wash up with false documents suggesting that the Allied invasion of Europe would take place somewhere else than in Sicily (Operation Mincemeat) was really Fleming's idea. Maybe I should read the novel about it: The Man Who Never Was, by Ewen Montagu. Anyway, the miniseries portrays it so, right down to Fleming and his secretary's examining the teeth of possible bodies to find one that met Fleming's requirement that the man's personal hygiene merit his having been entrusted with such valuable information. (A 2010 New York Times article about another book, Operation Mincemeat, by Ben Macintyre, does credit Fleming as having been on the team that planned the deception. Good stuff!)

    And I think Dominic Cooper is fine as Fleming, despite the NY Times reviewer's opinion that he "doesn’t have the commanding presence necessary to anchor a four-parter or the combination of charm and gravitas needed to make Fleming as intriguing as he probably was." But read that review too, if you need to be that prepared.
    Oh, and if you really can't watch a film with a lot of sex scenes, you'd maybe better skip this one. Ian Fleming was quite a ladies' man, and the plural form of that label is entirely apt.
Copyright © 2014 by Morris Dean

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  1. It sounds interesting. Where did you get?

    1. Ed, sorry. Where did I Well, after I finished writing the review, I went out into our garden and spread some mulch. Costa Rica weather here today.

  2. Great review Morris. I think I've watched all but two or three of the entire franchise in a movie theater the month it opened. I never had much of a stomach for Roger Moore as Bond (too effete), even though I liked him in The Saint. It would be interesting to see a study about how the changing Bond personalities, from Connery to Craig, reflect the alternating moods of western society. Pierce Brosnan, for instance, reeked of 90s' insouciance. Hope the mulch works out.

    1. Eric, I'm going to be spoiled forever (if I'm not already) by comments like "great review" for something I rushed off under deadline! To think that, all week, I had been going to review Last Tango in Halifax, another great miniseries from BBC, with Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid (and other fine actors), then had been going to do a threesome by reviewing the two already mentioned plus the "sitcom" Coupling, which is at times too funny (in that it hurts you it makes you laugh so much). I finally settled on Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond as just too good to share a review with anything else. (Plus I still have those other two to review, in case Jon doesn't come to the rescue and send me one of his more thoughtful reviews: a couple of them would be nice.)
          Oh, but what I meant to say was to ask whether you knew who might be up to doing that study about the changing Bond personalities....It should now, of course, include the personality of Fleming himself (as portrayed by Dominic Cooper).

  3. Actually I would be content to see a study comparing the two most successful Bonds (artistically and financially): Connery and Craig. The differences between just these two in terms of global politics, sexual mores/lifestyles, optimism/pessimism, hard facts vs. fantasy, the available modes of data, cultural iconography, living in history, to name a few topics, would be fascinating. Of course another nice comparison could be made between Craig’s Casino Royale and my favorite spy movie: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Hmmm... Maybe, just maybe, there's a Third Monday Musing in there somewhere, in between Spenser and Dryden.

    1. Eric, I had to work some to like the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy movie, I'd enjoyed the Masterpiece version, with Alec Guinness so much. In fact, when the movie came out, we re-watched the TV version again before the movie, which of course made the movie seem even thinner than it is. Have you seen the TV version? If you loved the movie, you'll L*O*V*E it.
          And John le Carré is one of my very favorite authors. He's not just a great spy novel writer, he is a great novel writer...and perhaps just a great writer.