It’s 1939 and widowed landowner Edith Pretty is intrigued by several burial mounds at her rural estate. Unable to gain the support of the local museum, she instead hires local self-taught archaeologist-excavator Basil Brown to investigate. However, with war clouds gathering and time running out to complete the excavation, the secrets that Basil unearths aren’t just those hidden underground…
Chocolate box-light and without any excessive sugar, it will successfully take you away from the gloom outside and into the history beneath your feet.
Overall, the best way to describe Netflix’s latest release The Dig is that it is a quality historical drama much in the vein of a BBC Film. From its spot-on period dressing, to-die-for casting choices and accents which faultlessly chime with the bone china, there is really nothing here with which to find fault with.
In framing Ralph Fiennes deliberately modest Basil Brown and Carey Mulligan’s achingly tender Mrs Pretty, The Dig initially teases a love across the social divide. However, refreshingly though, this turns out to be a passion for the job at hand, rather than each other. Add to this, a brisk feel to the film’s editing, collapsing countless hours of excavation and this movie goes one step further in its pursuit of poetry. Rather than shooting multiple scenes of people entering rooms only to talk a bit and leave, The Dig sagely throws away this period drama convention. Instead, by choosing to float the dialogue over both leads, The Dig has the makings of a very modern, major drama rather than a TV movie of the week.
However, when the second act arrives as if to anoint an inevitable discovery inside the burial mounds, there’s a glut of other storylines as well. Beating away all the aforementioned Terrence Mallick poetic flourishes, Ken Stott’s pompous man from the British Museum has arrived to take over affairs and the film’s tone changes accordingly. With the slow-burn romance stubbed out, Ken Stott instead spends much of the second act squaring off against Ralph’s Fiennes “unqualified” archaeologist. Add to this a legitimate love triangle involving Stardust‘s Johnny Flynn, Lily James and Ben Chaplin, and Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan rapidly disappear from view. However, this is but a little sawdust lost on what is otherwise magnificently paced and well-pitched piece.
Chocolate box-light and without any excessive sugar, it will successfully take you away from the gloom outside and into the history beneath your feet. So pull up a trowel and get ready to dig because you’re in for a treat.0