The Dig Review: A gentle but powerful true story brought to life

Based off a true story Netflix has once again proven it’s ability to make quality originals, even if there are a few lackluster attempts sprinkled in between…

In the build up to World War Two there was little else on the mind of Basil Brown but one thing, a mound on the property of his then employer Edith Pretty. A self proclaimed ‘excavator’ with little formal qualification Brown had been sent to the property of Edith Pretty on what appeared to be a simple dig, it was that same simple dig that turned very quickly into the nationally recognized treasure hunt of a lifetime in which he proved his worth to be far beyond that perceived by his peers.

The twice widowed Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) decides to finally pay for the excavation of some mounds out in the paddocks of her land in Suffolk England, Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) is sent from the local museum and quickly gets to work. With a few stumbles along the way Basil unearths a site like no other in one of the mounds and quickly finds himself surrounded by credit hungry archeologists whom alongside him get digging. All the while Edith is suffering from a slowly debilitating condition with her son watching on.

Where to start, ‘The Dig’ was filmed in a picturesque Suffolk very near the actual discovery site, and the visuals in this film are nothing short of jaw-dropping. From the vast, green, hilly plains to the simple pre-WW2 home interiors scene by scene ‘The Dig’ makes use of simplicity beautifully and chooses the times and places to extract all else but the scenery from the shot almost to perfection. I really can’t understate the beauty of this film, and in many ways it is that very visual beauty that both dictates the mood and sets the scene all throughout ‘The Dig’.

Director Simon Stone chooses grey sky’s and foggy outlooks on vast plains with simple but both comforting and melancholy piano scores suited their climate to hit home the idea of an impending Second World War but equally so the impending events far closer to Edith Pretty and Basil Brown.

‘The Dig’ is well casted and in my opinion Ralph Fiennes was the perfect man for the job of Basil Brown. Quiet and humble yet likeable and daring when needing to be Fiennes takes on the role of a man with a primal passion for both his craft and his values and plays it to perfection. Carey Mulligan also puts in a strong performance going outside her comfort zone as Edith Pretty but particularly her chemistry with Fiennes is what makes the film as engaging as it was.

Taking on a whole array of different ideas and concepts thematically ‘The Dig’ is a gentle but gritty story of life and death, of love and loss, and of past and present. Does it consider these ideas all to their greatest potential, perhaps not, but it certainly has the kick to make one consider their own thoughts on them. The backbone of the plotline being the ‘Dig’ itself the film splits itself into quite a few noticeable character arks and storylines, that of Edith Pretty and her son Robert, of archaeologists Peggy Preston and her husband Stuart Piggott and of course that of Basil Brown himself.

Action isn’t the goal of this film and pace isn’t either, however substance is. The main problem that ‘The Dig’ faces is the fact that it may just consider too much to really have considered anything in the best way. This isn’t to say that the ideas of love, loss, life and death in this story aren’t provocative of reflection in a viewer, however in it’s attempt to tackle so much there definitely is the sense maybe a better job could’ve been done hadn’t so many different idea’s and storylines come into the picture at once.

With that being said ‘The Dig’ is a humble British period piece that is able to produce far more than one might expect from the outset. Based off the true events of one of the great archeological finds in British history and pushed by the powerful performances of all in lead roles this film chooses to do more than just tell a story, but equally teach a lesson. Whilst a straying storyline and competing ideas may hinder from ‘The Dig’ reaching it’s full potential, it is a subtle yet powerful Netflix original watch that well and truly exceeds expectation.


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