The Dig begins in 1938, in Suffolk, where Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan, Collateral) had learned there were approximately 18 ancient burial mounds on the Sutton Hoo estate, near to her home, so she summons M (Ralph Fiennes)… sorry, archaeologist Basil Brown, to get stuck in, and this film tells the largely untold story of his excavation of the site, since his work wasn’t at all recognised for many years after.
But it’s a race against time, partly because she has an underlying health condition (she had pneumatic fever as a child), and partly because 1939 and World War II is just around the corner, since that’s bound to knacker any excavations, and it’s certainly stopped the British Museum getting involved from an early stage, hence why Basil’s called in.
The film brings us lush viewes of the Suffolk countryside, and a pleasing complimentary violin-based soundtrack, and as is shown by the trailer, they unearth a ship buried under the mound, festooned with a ton of trinkets, along with doing battle with the elements, as they get torrential rain at one point.
However, while there’s nothing majorly wrong with the film, it’s merely just passable for a couple of hours viewing on a Sunday afternoon, but not one you’d rush home to see. It simply tells a story without any wow factor. Plus, it doesn’t need to be so long. This film could’ve been wrapped up in 90 minutes if they hadn’t dragged it out with too many characters. It takes about an hour before they begin to unearth anything non-ship worthy from the site which you might later see on Antiques Roadshow, for example.
Maybe all those people did really exist, I’m not sure, but sometimes a film will amalgamate a number of characters into one or two just to simplfy matters. For example, after couple Stuart (Ben Chaplin) and Peggy Piggott (Lily James, Rebecca) turn up to join in, Johnny Flynn, as Edith’s cousin, Rory, seems to have little to do other than take photos of the ship, and try and crack on to Peggy. Will he woo her away from Stuart? I didn’t care to know. I didn’t come to The Dig for Mills & Boon.
Plus, there’s Charles Phillips (Ken Stott) from the British Museum, getting him and his men in on the action, shoving his face in where it’s not really wanted.
In fact, as it transpires, Rory was a fictional character, so all he did was fill out the time. Cut him out, and you COULD cut it down to 90 minutes.
As a few asides, 1938 is also the time of another famous archaeologist, Indiana Jones, as he was searching for the holy grail. Plus, one night, everyone goes to the pub. I remember pubs. We used to have them back in 2020…
In addition, at the start, Basil takes the ferry across the river to meet Edith for the first time. I hope he didn’t pay the ferryman until he gets you to the other side. We’ve all been warned about that.
The Dig is a 12-certificate, although I’m not sure why as there’s nothing likely to offend. There’s a moment when one person ends up in danger on the dig site, before ultimately being fine (as the trailer shows), but nothing I’d normally attribute to more than a PG.
As it turns out, the answer is…
The Dig is on Netflix from Friday January 29th, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Check out the trailer below:
Running time: 112 minutes
Release date: January 29th 2021
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Director: Simon Stone
Producers: Carolyn Marks Blackwood, Murray Ferguson, Gabrielle Tana, Ellie Wood
Screenplay: Moira Buffini
Music: Stefan Gregory
Edith Pretty: Carey Mulligan
Basil Brown: Ralph Fiennes
Stuart Piggott: Ben Chaplin
Peggy Piggott: Lily James
Rory Lomax: Johnny Flynn
Robert Pretty: Archie Barnes
May Brown: Monica Dolan
Charles Phillips: Ken Stott
John Grateley: Danny Webb
William Grimes: Arsher Ali
Billy Lyons: Robert Wilfort
George Spooner: James Dryden
John Jacobs: Joe Hurst
James Reid Moir: Paul Ready
Guy Maynard: Peter McDonald
Dr. Parry: Christopher Godwin
Mrs. Lyons: Ellie Piercy
Ellen McKenzie: Bronwyn James
Barge Skipper: Desmond Kaliszewski
London Man: Jonah Rzeskiewicz
Air Raid Warden: Jack Bennett
Dr. Rothman: John Macmillan
John Brailsford: Eamon Farren
Amelia: Amelia Stephenson
Ferryman: Stephen Worrall
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.