Monday, March 29, 2021

The Dig (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Dig (2021)
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Length: 112 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Magnolia Mae Films, Clerkenwell Films
Director: Simon Stone
Writers: Moira Buffini, John Preston
Actors: Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, Ben Chaplin, Johnny Flynn, Archie Barnes, Monica Dolan, Danny Webb, Robert Wilfort, James Dryden, Joe Hurst, Paul Ready, Peter McDonald, Christopher Godwin, Ellie Piercy, Bronwyn James, John Macmillan, Ken Stott, Arsher Ali, Eamon Farren, Amelia Stephenson
Blurb from IMDb:  An archaeologist embarks on the historically important excavation of Sutton Hoo in 1938.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been looking forward to setting some time aside to watch The Dig since I listed it as my #9 pick on the Top 20 Movies to Look Out For in January 2021 article.
In my article, I geeked out a bit about Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Spectre, Holmes and Watson) portraying the excavator of the Sutton Hoo site in the film while actually being involved in real-life archaeology with his brother. Then there was the famous Sutton Hoo sword’s appearance on a historical weapon recreation bladesmith competition show. I had a little inner squee, let me tell you when the familiar blade made an appearance in a scene of the movie. A lot of my interest expressed in anticipation of the film’s release was very meta in nature.
It was a movie certainly worthy of anticipation on its own merit, however.

The risk that historical and archaeological depictions run up against is that the subject matter can become too dry and procedural if not handled correctly. I was very relieved to find that I didn’t feel the passage of the nearly 2 hours of this production. The story was woven in such a way that it kept me engaged with the people and the stories that interwove with the titular dig itself.
Of course, as this was an adaptation of a book that wove a bit of fictional creative license into the telling of the story, not everything portrayed on the screen can be taken for gospel. There’s at least one fictional character, some of the ages are different, and things of that nature. It’s been said that the fictional aspects were left in this film to help solidify the emotion of the time period. This excavation did take place on the literal cusp of World War 2, after all. The author of the book The Dig was based on is the nephew of the real-life person the character Lily James (Baby Driver, Sorry to Bother You, Yesterday) portrays in the movie. I’d say they had a unique window into events as groundwork to fashion their re-imagining around.

There was a surprising bit of tension and thrill as the film progressed. Historical radio broadcasts of the news at the time and the fly-overs of warplanes as the RAF prepared for the inevitable gave the film grounding and reminded you that war was a clear and present danger just over the horizon. Weather and politics worked in counterpoint with the imminent military actions to keep me firmly entrenched in the plight of this massively important excavation.
The human element of the story was poignant and relatable. I’d have to say that Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby, Mudbound, Promising Young Woman) was brilliant in the role of the widow Mrs. Pretty. I wasn’t even aware of the age difference between the actress and the age of the real Edith Pretty at the time of the Sutton Hoo find until I went looking up more information on the story. If I had known, I don’t think I would have cared.

I have a feeling that The Dig will appeal to a wider range of audiences than you might think. I’m glad that the book and movie were made to bring more attention of the mainstream to this significant historical moment – and in doing so brought some posthumous recognition to those involved with the dig that were not correctly credited for their work at the time. The themes of family, friendship, loyalty, and perseverance transcend the subject matter a bit and make it very easy for me to recommend this film. It’s even one I wouldn’t mind watching again. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 78%
Metascore –73%
Metacritic User Score – 6.7/10
IMDB Score – 7.1/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

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