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Fleming - First episode review

Fleming

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

FLEMING marks Sky Atlantic’s latest big glossy British drama and is an extravagantly mounted, albeit “sexed up”, look at the life of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. Yet for all the razzle-dazzle and eye candy, episode one promised more than it ultimately delivered.

Dominic Cooper stars as the writer in question, a serial womaniser who lived his early life in the shadow of his brother’s achievements but who dreamed of a life of adventure befitting his eventual hero.

Mat Whitecross, who has previously directed Stone Roses movie Spike Island as well as Ian Drury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock N Roll and who has a background in music videos – littered the screen with plenty of flashy visuals to illustrate this imagintion. Indeed, there were times when Fleming felt like a Bond movie.

The opening sequences, in particular, began underwater in an obvious nod to Thunderball, tossed in a woman in a bikini (this one red, as opposed to Ursula Andress white) and, in the blink of an eye, hit the slopes for some skiing action that tipped its hat to The Spy Who Loved Me era Bond.

The script, too, attempted to capture the glib, double entendre laden antics of the womanising Bond.

Yet for all its verve, Fleming lacked anything really emotionally compelling. Cooper did OK in the lead role but, thus far, it’s a role that plays more to his looks than it does any darkness or depth (both of which, we’re told, will come later).

The best roles came from the supporting cast. Anna Chancellor shone as his fictional assistant Monday (a made-up template for Moneypenny), Annabelle Wallis sizzled as the lovestruck Muriel ‘Moo’ Wright (and was a vision in leather), Lara Pulver proved a wily female temptress as Fleming’s future wife and Samuel West brought stiff upper lip resolve to Rear Admiral John Godfrey.

But just as Fleming’s dream life reportedly informed much of his real life, so too did the supposedly seductive elements of Fleming.

Whitecross’ background in music videos was exposed, to the episode’s detriment, in a laughably bad double sex scene (that juxtaposed Fleming’s raw passion with Pulver’s more stately love-making, only to inadvertently end up looking like a glossy shampoo advert), while a passionate clinch in a hotel between Cooper and Pulver was set against the onset of The Blitz and, again, contributed to a glossy slow-mo sequence that deserved to be a lot more gritty.

Hence, while certainly handsomely mounted and not without some good moments, this Fleming lacks the emotional depth or piercing insight we arguably had more of a right to expect. An improvement is needed dramatically if this four-part drama is to hold our interest until the end.

Fleming airs on Sky Atlantic on Wednesday nights from 9pm.