Anyone who's ever taken any interest in Ian Fleming will be aware that his life was nowhere near as bonkersly mentaloid as Bond's, and that in fact he spent great swathes of his career sitting behind a desk. It's natural, therefore, to be thrown into a mild panic that any dramatisation of his story is going to be either truthful and spectacularly dull, or a second-rate Bondesque travesty full of dream sequences and weapons-grade cobblers. It is with no small sense of relief, then, to discover that Fleming mostly avoids both of these pitfalls, cherry-picking the most telly-worthy of its subject's adventures, filleting out all the typing and filing, throwing in a soupçon of fantasy without devaluing the truth and being bloody entertaining to boot.
Things get a bit darker and more complex thereafter, as John Brownlow and Don Macpherson's script probes Ian and Ann's heavily S&M-tinged affair (their first sex scene is uncomfortable viewing for a couple of reasons), and Fleming's involvement in the war becomes muddy and a little tricky to follow. In an attempt to up the action ante, those cheeky fantasy sequences creep in, but they're handled satisfyingly enough to please the casual viewer without insulting the obsessive fan. Plus, let's not forget: this is how Fleming liked to see himself; we're watching a man's imagination unfold on screen as much as his story. And while Dominic Cooper might be less successful at waving a gun around than he is at portraying a lazy socialite, as it's the nearest he'll ever get to playing James Bond it seems fair to cut him some slack.
Goldeneye? Of course not). It's to its credit that it's not fixated on being Bond 23.5, instead becoming a ripping war thriller which treads its own path and delivers a portrayal of a complex man evolving as a person and as a writer. It undertakes its problematic objective in a knowing and intelligent fashion, and survives with only minor casualties. Mission accomplished.
Fleming starts on Wednesday 12th February at 9pm on Sky Atlantic HD and will be available to download on Sky Go from Wednesday 5 February at 9pm.