Film Review – The Dig (2021)

Title – The Dig (2021)

Director – Simon Stone (The Daughter)

Cast – Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, Lily James, Johnny Flynn, Ben Chaplin

Plot – The true story of the Sutton Hoo excavation that took place in England in the late 1930’s when land owner and widow Edith Pretty (Mulligan) and archaeologist Basil Brown (Fiennes) joined forces to discover what lay beneath her land, changing the course of history forever.

“There are some things we just can’t succeed at no matter how hard we try”

Review by Eddie on 08/02/2021

Shining a light on the little known story behind the important discovery of ancient Anglo-Saxon artefacts at the Sutton Hoo dig site in England during the late 1930’s as war threatened to rage on around the peaceful country, Netflix’s latest prestige drama is the very definition of an easy watch movie that is one the whole family will be able to enjoy.

At times Australian director Simon Stone’s film threatens to be something more than this, for the first 30 to 40 minutes the tale of Ralph Fiennes archaeologist Basil Brown’s work on Carey Mulligan’s widow Edith Pretty’s farm land that is based off a hunch she has about the mysterious mounds that are located on her property is one that will grip you in its English countryside beauty and thrill of Brown’s early digging on the site but the film sadly starts to lose momentum and focus from here on out as other characters join the fray and the tales focus has awkward shifts that never feel totally earned.

Looking to cast a wide net on on those involved with the Sutton Hoo site excavation, the initial intrigue around the job at hand and Brown and Pretty’s friendship and working relationship is a strong component of the early stages of Stones film but when the likes of Johnny Flynn’s wannabe pilot/photographer Rory and Ben Chaplin and Lily James Mr and Mrs Piggott enter the picture it feels as though Stone and the film lose themselves to subplots and dalliances that vary in their intrigue levels for viewers and The Dig starts to become less about its titular task and more about dramatics that don’t add a whole lot of engagement to what was at one stage a focused and gripping true life tale.

An element that remains strong throughout The Dig is a collection of strong performances from its talented cast with Ralph Fiennes getting his best role in sometime here as the socially inept Brown while Mulligan is her typically assured self as the ailing Edith.

Both performers are reasons why The Dig is so gripping in its initial phases and its a shame they begin to get less screen time together and overall when the likes of Flynn, Chaplin and James roll into the frame. It’s not that these performers are in any way bad, its just by the time they arrive we as an audience have already grown attached to the journey’s of Brown and Pretty and their respective drive to uncover what could be one of England’s most noteworthy cultural discoveries and find meaning in their lives after respective failures, disappointments and heartbreak.

Final Say – 

A film that is beautiful to look at and one that will grip you early with its characters and dirt covered subject matter, The Dig is a solid Netflix prestige offering that suffers from a lack of focus and too many plot strands as it progresses along its merry way.

3 tarps out of 5

11 responses to “Film Review – The Dig (2021)

  1. Yeah, it was nice enough. Interesting what you say about our initial lead two though, I wonder how it would have played out with them as a central focus throughout. They could have definitely held it!

  2. “Mulligan is her typically assured self”– hands down, the most succinct descriptor of Carey Mulligan’s onscreen persona. No matter what kind of character she plays or to what extent the audience is supposed to sympathize with or covertly judge her, she plays them all with self-assurance. I’m gonna have to re-watch Wildlife again with this observation in mind.

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