Director: Simon Stone
Occupation: Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan and Lily James
Streaming on: Netflix
Ralph Fiennes is an acting institute. His portrayal of Monsieur Gustave H. in Wes Anderson’s modern classic The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) is a personal favorite. Again on The Dig, the actor gives a great performance as Basil Brown, a digger who loves his job and is a genius in his field. He could tell the origin of a floor just by smelling it.
Fiennes’ appearance as Basil Brown can easily be prescribed to aspiring acting students to learn voice modulation, less is more emotions and body language – they get into the skin of the character. Brown is hired by Edith Pretty to dig the mounds of her property, believing there must be something under them. Carey Mulligan (in great shape) plays Edith Pretty perfectly. Fiennes and Mulligan play each other brilliantly from the first scene they meet.
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A widowed woman, Pretty, has heart disease. She tries to hide it from her son Robert (an adorable Archie Adams). But he’s stronger than she thinks. Robert and Brown get on very well. There are a number of supporting characters – all actors do their job sincerely. A prime example of this is Lily James as Peggy, who will also be working on the excavation once it is carried out by the British Museum.
All of this happened before World War II in 1939. The film is based on a true story and novel of the same name by Jon Preston about the Sutton Hoo excavation in 1939. Moira Buffini’s screenplay intelligently captures these events in less than two hours of screen time together. The cinematography, largely hand-held by Mike Eley, brilliantly captures the uncertainty of events. Stefan Gregory’s music gives the archaeological drama the much needed nervousness. Directed by Simon Stone and edited by Jon Harris, The Dig is a valuable film experience. It is streamed on Netflix. Look at it.