Archeology, Carey Mulligan, England, Film Reviews, John Preston, Movies, Netflix, Ralph Fiennes, Simon Stone, Suffolk, Sutton Hoo, The Dig
by Richard Miller
The last two times Ellen and I posted reviews about films was in April and May of 2020, and all of those were films we had seen at home. (If you didn’t read or don’t remember either of those posts, you might find some films of interest in this link. (See: Our Movie Reviews Are Back, 4/7/2020 and Eight Films & One Guest Review, 5/9/2020). As you may recall, Ellen in particular, is not a great fan of watching movies at home.
Nevertheless, we kept trying to find films, generally ones recommended by other MillerTime readers. (See: Favorite Movies & TV Progams in These Times, 6/18/2020 and Second Rounds of Contributors Favorite Films & TV Programs, 8/25/2020). The few we did like were already well-heralded, and our recommendations would lend little to drawing your attention to them.
Last night, however, we hit on one that we both thought worthy of mentioning to others:
The Dig (Directed by Simon Stone, on Netflix)
Ellen rated it ***** and said, “it was the best thing she’d seen since the coronavirus quarantine began, and we stopped writing about films.”
I rated it **** 1/2 and agree it was the most satisfying film we’d seen in many months.
The story is adapted from a novel by John Preston and is fictional account about the 1939 excavation in Suffolk, England of an archeological site on the property of Edith Pretty, just as World War II was about to begin. (This excavation did in fact take place and has been called “one of the biggest archeological finds of the 20th Century.”) Neither Ellen nor I had read the novel nor knew about this ‘expedition’.
For us, The Dig hit on many of the factors that we like in a film: a good story that does more than entertain; one that educates and provokes; one with fine acting (particularly by the two leads Carey Milligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, the excavator); and a film that has wonderful cinematography with images that remain in one’s mind well after seeing the film. It is visually beautiful.
Perhaps the film may be more suited to a slightly older audience, one not looking for fast moving scenes and exciting action. The director chooses to move away from the main story of this coastal England countryside dig to include some secondary characters. Fortunately, he returns to his main themes of the discovery and outcome of this dig and questions of who owns history, issues of class inequality, and portrayal of British life, all done in an understated way.
You don’t need to know any more than that, but if you’re interested in some of the background information, you can check out:
The True History Behind Netflix’s ‘The Dig’ and Sutton Hoo, Smithsonian Magazine.
Sutton Hoo – Recreating an Archeological Discovery from the Ground Down, NYTimes.
Chris Rothenberger said:
I saw the preview and it looked intriguing. As soon as I finish Outlander, it is next! Stay tuned!
Matthew Schneider said:
Thanks for sharing Rick. Marjorie and I watched it (The Dig) and agree. It is quite excellent and satisfying. The latter is particularly important to me during these continuing days of isolation. A “great” film is not great for me at the moment, if it doesn’t make me feel generally ok. The film did not sugar coat the ills of society but in the end, there was a modicum of justice and it was a quietly riveting story with very good performances.
Glen Willis said:
I watched this afternoon W a great movie. And true.
I ditto Rick and Ellen.
Lois Barber said:
Doug and I also really enjoyed Dig. It had everything we like: a good story, important history, great acting, a bit of romance, tender emotions, some mystery, gorgeous countryside, . . .
Liz Frost said:
The Dig was a delightful change from the present day movies. I enjoyed the story, history learned, landscape, and issues introduced. To date, I have watched the movie twice.
bill plitt said:
A wonderful story about devotion in relationships and dreams. Beautiful English Country side, and powerful acting. Truly the best film I have seen not only in this past year, but long before that as well. The young boy, Robert, is a star, and Ralph Fiennes is who he is as one of the best actors our times. Thanks Richard and Ellen for passing it along.