Available on Netflix.
Directed by Simon Stone with a screenplay by Moira Buffini and based on a novel by John Preston. The Dig is based on the true story of the 1939 excavation by Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) of a 6th century burial ship in Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, on the land of Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) a wealthy widow, who had hoped to discover what rests below the mounds on her farm land with her now late husband. What they uncover was, and still remains, one of the most significant archeological finds on British soil.
What I want from a film are characters to care about, a story that interests me and something that engages me emotionally and this had all of that in spades, excuse the pun. Built around two superb central performances, the story telling oozes with charm. Set against the dark skies of impending war, there is a palpable sense of time passing and a risk of losing what is important, the rush to compete the dig before the outbreak of war, Mrs. Pretty concerned she will not see the digs end and the risks of having their discovery and passion taken away by the establishment in the form of the British museum.
For me the films real strength comes from the broader relationships, with some fine support, especially Monica Dolan as Brown’s wife and relative newcomer Archie Brown as Pretty’s son Robert, who having lost his father is terrified that he can not “look after his mother” and who develops a strong bond with Brown as a father figure and guide to what lies ahead.
The only mistep is a seemingly superfluous love story between Peggy (Lily James) and Rory (Johnny Flynn), but it’s only a small qualm and doesn’t detract from all that’s good else where.
The Dig is a really beautiful film with lovely story telling, gorgeously shot, patient, engaging and draws you into its world from start to finish. It is well worth digging out of the Netflix library.