By Patrick Brady
Despite having very little knowledge of the film beforehand, “The Dig” managed to exceed all of my wildest expectations.
The film, directed by Simon Stone, is a biographical drama, which most notably stars Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty, and Ken Stott as Charles Phillips. While Stone directed many other films in the past, “The Dig” was his first worldwide release debut.
It was released as a Netflix original film Jan. 29.
In 1939, Pretty, a landowner in the U.K., hired Brown – a local archaeologist-excavator – to dig up large burial mounds in her estate’s backyard. With the help of Pretty’s assistants, Brown slowly excavated the area.
All the while, Pretty struggled with her health and is warned by her doctor to avoid stress. But after a few weeks of digging, Brown uncovered the iron remnants of an ancient ship.
After news of Brown’s discovery spread, Phillips, a Cambridge archaeologist, arrived and declared the site to be of national importance.
Nowadays, a lot of historical films try to incorporate ideas or messages which don’t correspond with the time period. Instead of pushing past the historical barriers, the movie stuck true to its source material and didn’t go overboard with the political commentary.
Right from the opening sequence, the film struck me as being one word – beautiful. The backdrop of Englands’ countryside sprawled with vibrant color and life – a love letter to the finer moments of cinematography.
Along with the gorgeous scenery, the tracking shots were quite fluid and not too shaky. Also, when the camera panned over to another character, there was no motion blur whatsoever – a blessing to those with motion sickness.
Even though the first 10 minutes didn’t have much plot development, the film did pick up its pace after Fiennes’s character was involved in a digging accident. But even though the movie picked up speed, none of the scenes felt rushed or tacked on.
The film was full of top-notch dialogue and spectacular acting. None of the actors felt miscast or out of place and the character’s exposition with each other furthered the plot.
In particular, Fiennes delivered one of the best performances of his acting career. Despite portraying a flawed, yet well-meaning man, Fiennes fully morphed into the character.
Not only did his character progress throughout the film, but also gave great warmth to an otherwise boring movie. Without Fiennes’ performance, I believe the movie would not have been as engaging as it was.
Along with the near perfect acting, cinematography, and scriptwriting, the movie explored each character in-depth. For instance, Pretty came off as being a somewhat self-centered character at first, but after she became seriously ill, she was a lot more likeable and relatable.
In addition to the character development, the film’s score was light for the most part, but heavy and deep during emotional sequences. Instead of incorporating contemporary songs into the scenes, the movie stuck to the classical music of the time period.
For the most part, I believe too many present-day historical films try to include modern film tropes in order to appeal to a wider audience. But thankfully, Stone stuck to the story’s roots and told its tale without the usage of a contemporary soundtrack or opinionated commentary.
Although there were some dry and uneventful sections in the film, the Lawless script and scenery kept me engaged, even when there wasn’t a lot happening on-screen. Furthermore, while there was an occasional heated argument or war reference, the movie didn’t rely on action too heavily, despite being set right before World War II.
Instead of being an edgy, R-rated movie, “The Dig” stuck to its PG-13 roots and did not add in an excess of swearing or irrelevant violence. Even though it was essentially made for adults, the film had almost no inappropriate content.
As the film came to an end and the credits began to roll, I was left feeling satisfied. Not once could I remember a movie that made me cry as hard as this film – not from sadness, but rather pure beauty.
While I have seen a ton of great films recently, “The Dig” leaves all of them in the dust. It is not only a great movie, but also carries a life-alarming message – people can define history by making a small difference in the world.
A – “The Dig” dove deep down into my heart.