Set during Suffolk’s celebrated Sutton Hoo excavation in 1939 and based on John Preston's 2007 novel, The Dig is an absorbing tale surrounding various forms of unfeigned love.
Netflix's film introduces us to Ralph Fiennes' Basil Brown, the excavator of Sutton Hoo that never saw recognition for his great work. The estate on which the ancient burial ground is found belongs to Carey Mulligan's Edith Pretty. Together, Pretty and Brown achieve something of upmost historical significance whilst battling personal woes and unearthing a mutual respect that goes beyond stature or class.
The premise certainly doesn't get the blood pumping, but the film's execution is far more remarkable. For starters Fiennes and Mulligan are, unsurprisingly, exceptional.
Fiennes' characterisation of Basil brings to screen a warm, affirming presence - a humbled figure. Opposite him is the gracefully wounded soul of Mulligan's character. These actors deliver an endless supply of humility to the screen and Fiennes' dialect coach does a superb job on his Suffolk accent to really sell the character's authenticity.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fiennes bagging an Oscar nomination for this role. Probably not a win, but a nomination would certainly be deserving. Another film coming out this year feels like it could be more 'promising' for Carey Mulligan's Oscars attention though.
For a film chiefly concerned with digging into the depths of the earth the main attraction here is not actually the dig. It's the splendour of Suffolk. Openly adored by the creators and wonderfully reflected onscreen, the landscape is always at the forefront. A shot of any character is always outweighed by the beauty of what surrounds them. It's a particularly nice looking movie.
But where The Dig excels visually, it sometimes lacks in energy and feels like a bit of a slow burn. It's a very purposeful slow burn that seeks to give you enough time to properly soak in the beauty of East Anglia. But there is, especially in the second quarter of the film, a lack of urgency that it probably requires.
Whether there’s any historical accuracy to be found is beside the point, when it does inevitably get to unearthing the bounties beneath the soil it transforms from a meandering absorption of the Suffolk landscape into an incredibly uplifting tale.
Lily James and Johnny Flynn are introduced with a passionate love of a very different breed, both executing their roles effectively. When all the tensions come to life it's a thrilling watch just as much as it is a visually captivating one.
Although it’s no action packed thrill ride, The Dig provides enough visual and emotional impact to deserve your attention. The fantastic acting doesn't hurt either.
Any Good? No film has represented the beauty of Suffolk better than The Dig
The Dig is now available to stream on Netflix