The Dig Review Movie
The Dig Review
If you've ever dreamed of "Time Team the Movie' then The Dig is the film for you. Based on John Preston's novel Simon Stone's film tells the story of one of the most famous British archeological digs, that of the 1938 discovery of an Anglo-Saxon boat in the burial mounds of the charmingly called Sutton Hoo estate in Suffolk. Anyone who has watched Tony Robinson presiding over a three-day excavation of an ancient Roman villa during the rain could imagine The Dig must work hard to make genuine dramas from the intricacies of archaeology (this isn't a hunt to find The Ark Of The Covenant). Ark Of The Covenant) It doesn't really increase the tempo however it does rely with strong performances, beautiful filmmaking and the successful concept of good people coming together to achieve good works.
The central theme of the film revolves around the love story with Lady Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan, in a totally different manner from the promising Young Woman), the widowed landowner who has the land where the burial mounds sit and salt-of the-earth Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) is an untrained excavation worker who is hired (not without haggling over money) to find out the hidden secrets. There are conflicting issues that are fought between Basil and Edith; the battle between Basil and the professional Basil Edith along with Basil and Edith versus the British Museum (represented here by Ken Stott) for ownership of the excavation Edith's illness that she has been hiding as well as a clever set-piece in which the museum's structure is destroyed by an important character but nothing that really grips. The thing that is interesting is that Edith and Basil don't have a romance but instead it's an exchange of ideas that creates an intellectual bond and Mulligan and Fiennes are able to play it flawlessly. Also, there's an infectious feeling of excitement about discovering the past ("The Dark Ages are no anymore dark") and is which is rooted in the notion that the past can provide hope for the future.
In a film that's primarily focused on the advantages that come from Suffolk soil The Dig could have been made with a bit of dirt or grit.
The story is set at the brink of Britain entering World War II, the idea of art being around for centuries while life being a fleeting thing is a theme that comes up in the less-than-successful B-story. After archaeologists who are married Stuart (Ben Chaplin) and Peggy Piggott (Lily James) join the dig, and the latter is was hired only because her eight-stone frame doesn't threaten the fragile excavation site. Peggy is dragged into the circle of Edith's cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) who is waiting to be called up to the RAF. While Chaplin and James' characters are drawn as mismatched in painfully obvious ways, the affair itself is a thin romance-with-a-threat-hanging-over-it that feels overly sudsy in places and on the nose thematically in others ("If 1,000 years passed in an instant, what would be left of us?").
Famous for her performance of the stage performance of Billie Piper's Yerma on stage and sophomore filmmaker Stone together with director Mike Eley, creates a gorgeous-looking film that is packed with English landscape beauty and Malick-like poetic lyricism (count the shots of Mulligan running through long grass wearing pleated trousers). Perhaps for a film that's largely about the characteristics that come from Suffolk soil The Dig could have been better with a bit more dirt and gritty.