'The Dig' review: Soothing, moving drama of humanity at war

Shubham Dasgupta
·3-min read


21 Feb 2021: 'The Dig' review: Soothing, moving drama of humanity at war

You actually take the time out to watch any film that has Ralph Fiennes in it.

This apart, the historical significance and surprise powerfully packed in it make The Dig a mandatory watch.

Opining since the start, this is the second most decent film Netflix offered back in January besides the Tilottama Shome-starrer Is Love Enough? Sir.

Can't wait to unearth!

Sutton Hoo: Edith decides to unearth the mounds, hires Fiennes's Basil Brown

It's the 1930s in England, and Mrs. Edith Pretty, played by Carey Mulligan, decides to unearth the highly suspicious mounds in Sutton Hoo where she happens to own the land.

She bargains the price with seasoned excavator Basil Brown, played by Fiennes.

An independent widow with son Robert, Pretty is a kind-hearted yet firm professional when it comes to dealing with any employee concerned.

Characters: Brown is a man of his word, impresses Pretty

The film balances the strength of character shown by Brown and Pretty remarkably with a failed deal, where Brown remains firm in his just demand of a pay scale that is higher than his unfortunate remuneration hitherto.

Brown, a man in his 50s, knows the value of his skills and does not bow his dignity down before mounting financial difficulties, which impresses Pretty.

Depth: Brown's curiosity is endless, a spirit that energizes Pretty

Brown pays back every penny of his wage and even more by intimating his progress to Pretty sometimes at the dismay of her butler John because he is doing his job with perfection and the endless thirst of a curious child.

It is Brown's spirit that energizes Pretty, who overcomes her worsening health to give her all to the excavation.

Features: 'The Dig' gives supporting roles due screen time

Directed by Simon Stone and based on the true findings of the Sutton Hoo excavations, the film doesn't digress into sub-plots and holds the theme sacrosanct, while giving each supporting character their due screen time and relevance.

The defining beauty of the film is the technique of overlapping the end of one scene with the dialogues of the following scene, thus threading the story.

Acting: Performances peak with museum authorities invading the dig

Set in the backdrop of an impending World War II, the digging site becomes the confluence for differing purposes of every person interested in the findings.

Fiennes carries Brown's ego and compulsion before societal structure with a painful elegance, as his laurels as a self-taught excavator and multi-hyphenate are questioned by egotistic archaeologist Charles Phillips, played deftly by Ken Scott.

But Mulligan's Pretty slays!

Conclusion: Film shows journey brings true victory, not destination; gets 4/5

Other noteworthy performances are by Lily James, who plays an intelligent woman bogged down by worthless patriarchy, absorbing her husband's disgraceful indifference to her helplessly, until she finds true love.

Child actor Archie Barnes plays Robert, a space-fanatic boy and a responsible son, too well.

The film proves how the journey, and not the destination, brings true victory.

Such a film deserves a 4/5.