The Dig: Netflix Film Review

The Dig

Admittedly there’s another Carey Mulligan film that I’d rather be watching, but The Dig is a decent consolation prize.

The Dig is based on John Preston‘s novel, which reimagines the events surrounding the real-life excavation of the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk, England in 1939. Mulligan stars as Edith Pretty, a widower who hires self-taught excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to dig up the mysterious mounds in her fields. Once they uncover an Anglo-Saxon ship, the discovery becomes big news and archaeologists descend upon the site, hoping to claim it for either the British Museum or the Ipswich Museum. These include married couple Stuart and Peggy Piggott (Ben Chaplin and Lily James), while Edith calls up her cousin Rory (Johnny Flynn) to help.

Watching people dig up dirt and meticulously move soil around to find long-buried artefacts is painfully dull and slow so Simon Stone has brought some excitement with the characters, from Edith’s secret illness, Stuart and Peggy’s troubled marriage, to Basil’s fight to lead the dig when the academic archaeologists want to take over, not to mention the threat of World War II looming in the background.

Even still, The Dig is still just a simple, gentle and pleasant affair. It looks gorgeous, with some stunning cinematography depicting the English countryside and the dig site, which is amazing to look at when it’s finished, but there’s not enough substance to grab onto, hook us in, and make us really care about the story. Not every film needs high-stakes drama to work, but this needed a little more oomph.

Mulligan is no stranger to period dramas and she is a strong lead as the refined and outwardly stoic Edith, who tries to keep up appearances despite her illness, while Fiennes was an interesting choice for the unorthodox local man. I wasn’t totally convinced by his accent but Brown, despite his seemingly grouchy nature at first, becomes the most likeable towards the end. I liked how his friendship developed with Edith and how he provided a father-type figure for her son Robert (Archie Barnes). James and Flynn’s storyline was too obvious to really work but they did a fine enough job.

The Dig is an easy Sunday afternoon type of film. It’s harmless, inoffensive and pleasant, but it’s just missing a bit of excitement.

On Netflix from Friday 29th January

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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