'Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond' review: His wild side

Ann O'Neill (Lara Pulver) and Ian Fleming (Dominic Ann O'Neill (Lara Pulver) and Ian Fleming (Dominic Cooper) in "Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond" on BBC America. Photo Credit: MCT

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REVIEW

MINISERIES "Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond"

WHEN | WHERE Four weekly hours start Wednesday night at 10 on BBC America

WHAT IT'S ABOUT James Bond author Ian Fleming had a wild life, and a wild imagination. Which was which?

Why worry? Dark-hued Dominic Cooper (PBS' "Sense & Sensibility") robustly embodies the spy creator-to-be (1908-1964) as a striking but self-obsessed twerp of privilege, jealous of his author-warrior older brother, resentful of his controlling widowed mother, playing callous cad to too many ladies of London. His Fleming has "one foot in the cradle, the other hurtling towards the grave." But then World War II transforms him from London's worst stockbroker to dirty-tricks visionary whose "healthy disregard for authority" helps him chart "the future of military espionage."

Fleming launches his naval intelligence career before the first hour ends, by which time he's bedding a cycle-riding babe in leather and being warned, "I'll have your guts for a necktie." Wednesday's episode also has an underwater spear-gun chase and a bombing raid where exploding windows rain down on the lip-locked lad and his most illicit paramour (Lara Pulver, from "Sherlock," as an equally betwixt baroness).

Coming up: spy school surprises, unnervingly rough sex, last-second getaways, fabulist storytelling, even crafty gadgets. Would we expect any less of the spy who loved her? The bloke with the license to kill? ("Fleming" winks so often at big-screen Bond, it'd make a mad drinking game.)

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MY SAY I've never been much of a Bond girl, but I could be persuaded by this slick yet complex sketch of a lost soul whose vengeful daydreams strangely serve as his un-undoing. He's "a hero, a lover, a brute," whose colorful adventures tend toward the callous. Just the ticket for the movies. Not so much for real life. That's sharply explored by director Mat Whitecross ("The Road to Guantánamo"), fellow documentary-schooled scripter John Brownlow and co-writer Don Macpherson. Their saga is so vividly shaded, even minor characters resonate.

"Fleming's" propulsively delivered four hours end just as the war does, leaving ahead their lead's narrative writing and rocky marriage. Could Season 2 be on the way? Does James Bond announce his name twice?

BOTTOM LINE It's kinky. It's cunning. It's Bond.

@Newsday

GRADE A-

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