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.

Stardust: Film Review

Stardust

To celebrate the recent fifth anniversary of David Bowie’s death as well as what would have been his 74th birthday, director Gabriel Range has brought out Stardust, a biopic about the late great music icon.

Stardust stars Johnny Flynn as Bowie and focuses on his tour of America in 1971. He hopes this tour will help him crack the country and make him a big star stateside, but due to a visa issue, he’s banned from playing concerts, so he has to tour the country in his publicist Ron Oberman (Marc Maron)’s car, hitting up radio stations to promote his new album, The Man Who Sold the World, and performing low-key gigs at trade conferences. The film also delves into his relationship with his schizophrenic half-brother Terry (Derek Moran), his marriage to first wife Angie (Jena Malone), and the origins of his Ziggy Stardust persona.

The major problem with Stardust is that Bowie’s estate didn’t approve of the film or grant rights to the use of Bowie’s music, meaning this biopic doesn’t contain any of his actual music!! There’s no ignoring it; the absence of his music is glaringly obvious and the film falls flat without it. Range got around this issue by having Flynn as Bowie sing covers that the man himself performed back in the ’70s, but this obviously doesn’t have the same effect. Watching vacuum cleaner salespeople ignore Bowie’s performance doesn’t have the same impact when it’s a cover rather than a classic hit, and for the same reason, the big finale number doesn’t have the crowd-pleasing, joyous feel it should have done.

He might not look exactly like the man himself, but I thought Flynn sounded very close to the real deal, and I enjoyed his look. It’s easy to give a caricature-style performance when you’re portraying somebody so flamboyant and kooky, but thankfully, Flynn reins it in and doesn’t go over the top. He kept it reasonably grounded and gave Bowie a real sense of humanity, particularly regarding his brother’s illness. I really liked Maron as the exasperated publicist who is fed up of driving wannabes around the country, while Malone didn’t have much to do as the wife.

As I don’t know much about Bowie’s life, I found Stardust rather enlightening but I don’t think it completely worked as a biopic as it was too flimsy, thin, and jumped around a bit too much, not to mention the obvious music issue. I didn’t dislike watching it but it didn’t engage me either and I couldn’t shake the feeling something was missing. It wasn’t the celebration of Bowie’s legacy that I hoped it would be.

On digital platforms from Friday 15th January

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Emma: Film Review

I didn’t really think we needed another movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma but the trailer for Autumn de Wilde’s version looked bonkers and fun so I was intrigued about what it had to offer. The latest Emma has moments of wit and comedy but is just fine in general.

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True West: Theatre Review

I first saw Kit Harington on stage in 2016 in Doctor Faustus, which I didn’t really enjoy, but it was hard to say if that was down to the Game of Thrones star or the weird adaptation of the source material. Anyway, I decided to give him another shot when True West was announced, because it’s a play by the late Sam Shepherd and his co-star is Johnny Flynn, who was fantastic in Beast.

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Michael Pearce on the different interpretations of Beast

Michael Pearce recently sat down for a Q&A about his directorial debut Beast, a psychological thriller starring Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn.

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Michael Pearce on casting Pascal in Beast

Recently, director Michael Pearce and actors Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn sat down for a Q&A about their film Beast, and here are some highlights.

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Beast: Film Review

Beast wasn’t really on my radar but positive word of mouth encouraged me to check it out, and I’m glad I did – it is one impressive, slow-burning psychological thriller.

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