TV review: Fleming (3 stars)

TV review: Fleming

Dominic Cooper is a suave operator as the chap who gave us Bond

You can perfectly understand why a dramatised biography would want to cover its back by declaring that some of the events portrayed might not have happened exactly the way they are being shown. In four-part mini-series Fleming, about the playboy who created 007, the waters are muddied further as each episode opens with this quote from its subject: ‘Everything I write has a precedent in truth’.

The perplexed viewer is simply left trying to second-guess which bits might be concreted in actuality and which are metaphoric representations of the writer’s seemingly febrile imagination. It only serves to distract you from what is a perfectly serviceable multi-layered tale of derring-do, thwarted love and oedipal machinations.

Those who previously viewed Dominic Cooper as little more than Danny Dyer with a slightly better grasp of vowels and consonants, should be reasonably taken by his portrayal of Ian Fleming. To mama Fleming (played with a malevolent steel by Lesley Manville), silly old Ian would seemingly live in the permanent shadow of his populist author brother and his heroic father who died during WW1. The boy gave little reason to make his mother think any differently given his failure at almost anything (at one point he is described as ‘the worst stockbroker in London’), except bedding dames by the dozen (assuming this is all true) and burning candles all ends up.

But when he gets a sniff of a job in Naval Intelligence which entails working out tactics to foil the Nazis from behind the safety of a desk, he seizes the day to eventually take his espionage skills onto the front line. It’s quite a story (assuming that this too is not a fat fib) especially when he survives a shoot-out whilst being enormously outnumbered (how very Bond).

Despite warnings from his senior officers, Fleming was unable to keep himself inside his trousers and the ardour he experienced for the wrong woman is at first stirred and then properly shaken towards Ann O’Neill (Lara Pulver). Unfortunately, she is not only married to a serviceman fighting for king and country but also is dabbling in an affair with one of the Daily Mail Rothermeres.

You too might feel cheated at watching a drama which by its own admission plays hugely fast and loose with the truth. The best policy would be to slowly shut down your mind and roll with it. Save all that thinking stuff for True Detective.

Fleming starts on Sky Atlantic, Wed 12 Feb, 9pm.

FLEMING: The Man Who Would Be Bond with DOMINIC COOPER - BBC America Extended Trailer