‘The Dig‘ is a historical drama based on the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo. It was released on Netflix and is directed by Simon Stone. It is based on the titular novel by John Preston, which I have not read.
In 1939, widow Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) hires excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes), suspecting a historic burial ground on her property. Edith’s son Robert (Archie Barnes) takes a liking to Brown, hanging around the dig site. After Edith’s cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) arrives to help and photograph their progress, British archaeologist Charles Philips (Ken Stott) tries to take over with his colleagues Stuart Piggott (Ben Chaplin) and his wife Peggy (Lily James). As the dig continues, Edith’s health declines and the entire crew works under the loom of war.
When I heard that a film was being made about a dig, albeit a historical one, I had my doubts. It does seem like something that would be hard to dramatize to the point of becoming interesting, but I will admit I was wrong. I actually enjoyed this movie a great deal. It uses the dig to highlight the characters and focus on their lives. It did get a little slow at times, but I did enjoy the story of Pretty and Brown’s efforts surrounding the dig. Their relationship was particularly interesting as at times, Brown seemed to remind Pretty of her late husband and even gets jealous of Mrs. Brown, played by Monica Dolan. However, their friendship becomes clear as the work continues.
On the performances, everyone did a decent job. Fiennes and James were excellent as usual. I also found Mulligan’s acting very good. The three of them were the best of the movie and carried it forward. I also want to praise Barnes. For a child actor, he did fine with his role and truly brought out the wide-eyed optimism of childhood while also learning to adapt to his mother’s medical condition.
I did a little research and found out that, like most historical movies, it gets a lot of things wrong. For drama’s sake, of course. The sad thing is, the real story sounds WAY more interesting. For example, Lomax did not exist. It was actually three women who acted as photographers for the excavation. Also, Peggy Piggott was not some rookie archaeologist who was chosen because of her body type. She was selected for her work at the University of Cambridge and the University of London. This no doubt was inserted as a “don’t body-shame” message that fortunately did not drag on.
That being said, the historical inaccuracies did not detract from the charming plot. I felt that it captured the sense of loss that the British were feeling ahead of the war. They wanted to hang onto their wide-eyed optimism, their history, and sense of self as England heads to war.
Bottom line, The Dig is a historical drama that has a very charming story and excellent performances from its principal stars. While the story is not accurate, it definitely captures the feeling of holding onto your culture in the face of doom.
PARENT CONCERNS: Some language, Sexual innuendo, Minor violence
FAVORITE QUOTES: We all fail. Everyday. There are some things we cannot succeed in, no matter how hard we try. I know that is not what you want to hear.
Check out the trailer below:
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my movie reviews of White Lie and Locked Down. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.