Reviews

‘The Dig’: An Idealistic Escape

As lockdowns and restrictions persist in most countries, it is no surprise that streaming giants are taking advantage of their accessibility. Renowned directors like Noah Baumbach are having exclusive deals with Netflix; Ryan Coogler just signed a 5-year exclusive deal with Disney. It’s not a far-off prediction that film distribution has changed forever, to the benefit of streaming giants. 

The Dig was released in late January exclusively on Netflix. The film is based on a novel about archaeologists amidst a world in crisis: Edith Pretty (Carrey Mulligan) hires a local archaeologist, Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes), to unearth the mounds in her estate in Sutton Hoo. The tension between the two sets the tone for the mild-mannered drama. 

The plot weaves the successes of the archaeological dig and their interpersonal relationships with relative ease. Screenwriter Moira Buffini does an excellent job of balancing out the story to remain entertaining from beginning to end. Buffini also manages to honor the book without bogging down the film with too many unnecessary details. Mulligan and Fiennes offer stunning performances that draw the audience in the world of British archaeologists. Robert Pretty, played by Archie Barnes, gives a good portrayal of a wide-eyed child that loves his mother. The performances of other archaeologists, one of whom was played by Lily James, do not distract from the main plot of the film. 

THE DIG. CAREY MULLIGAN as EDITH PRETTY, in THE DIG: Cr. LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021

Somehow, a film set in 1939 feels timely. There is a sense of hopelessness and despair felt in both crises where people don’t know when the crisis will end. The archaeologists remained focused on their tasks as it became clear that the war was coming on. There are multiple reasons why they chose to do the dig, such as fame and recognition. However, the crux of the dig for Brown was to find a historical marker that can help the future understand their past better. Perhaps, it could remind us that what we do in the present can make a difference in the years to come. At its heart, The Dig is a film for the hopeful wonderers in dreadful times. It is a struggle to think of a better future, but there is still hope. Even without the current context of the pandemic, The Dig aims to lift one’s spirits without completely ignoring reality.

The Dig is streaming on Netflix.

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