Currently on Netflix from director Simon Stone is a story based on true events when two people believe in everything under THE DIG.
Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) is a widow with young son Robert (Archie Barnes) living on the large Sutton Hoo estate in 1938 right before the war. Edith has noticed mounds scattered in a far-off field on the property and calls in Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to come and give his opinion as to what they might be. Brown is a man who has spent his life excavating being a self-taught archaeologist and receiving little notice for his work.
Immediately he begins work and Edith brings in her cousin Rory (Johnny Flynn) to help with the dig and take pictures of what is uncovered. The word gets out and Charles Phillips (Ken Stott) shows up with takes the work away from Brown. Phillips brings in John (Eamon Farren), Stuart Piggott (Ben Chaplin) and wife Peggy (Lily James) to work on the dig putting Brown on dirt detail.
Furious over his work being trampled on, Brown goes to Edith only to discover that she does not look well and not up to an argument. Deciding he can not longer be a part of what is happening, he packs up and goes home to wife May (Monica Dolan). It is young Robert who reminds Brown of a promise and May who remind him of why he has spent years digging for history.
Each day that they dig and uncover the biggest find as Edith makes sure the museum understand who it all belongs to. The war looms constantly until it can no longer be ignored. Now Brown must do what he can to save the site from being destroyed by the war to come.
Mulligan as Edith is a fragile woman, but she has an insight regarding the mounds on her property. Asking Brown to come investigate, Mulligan brings dignity and grace to her character as well as a belief that there is something wonderful waiting to be found and wants to be a part of it from start to finish. The on-screen chemistry between Mulligan and Fiennes is extraordinary.
Fiennes as Brown is a man of few words and a lot of action. From the moment the shovel hits the dirt, Fiennes knows he is looking for something special. Getting to know Edith and Robert makes his work more enjoyable because they shared this experience one shovel at a time. Fiennes’ character is a man of dedication but also someone who believes the past is meant to be found by a chosen few.
James as Peggy is a woman who is chosen to help with the excavation more because of her weight and being Piggott’s wife than anything else. Chaplin as Piggott has issues of his own that are affecting his marriage. Flynn as Rory is a wonderful family member who becomes just as excited about the dig as Edith and helps document it.
Barnes as young Robert is dealing with the death of a father, the illness of a mother and the responsibility he feels for it all. The excavation gives him an adventure of a lifetime. Dolan as May understands her husband and although he spends a lot of time away on digs, she supports everything he does and Dolan is so darn cute.
Other cast include Danny Webb as John Grateley, Robert Wilfort as Billy Lyons, James Dryden as George Spooner, Joe Hurst as John Jacobs, Paul Ready as James Moir, Peter McDonald as Guy Maynard, Ellie Piercy as Mrs. Lyons, Bronwyn James as Ellen McKenzie and Monica Dolan as May Brown.
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THE DIG is an amazing story of the historical excavation of Sutton Hoo in 1938 and based on the 2007 novel The Dig by John Preston. The mounds, once excavated, were dated from the 6th to 7th centuries. It is believed that King Raedwald of East Anglia was buried with the ship in the early Anglo-Saxon era of time which is present day Norfolk or Suffolk.
Beautiful treasures were unearthed at Sutton Hoo with metalworks, gold, shield and sword. The area of Sutton Hoo has buried a rich history and with more mounds waiting to be unearthed. Bringing Edith Pretty and Basil Brown to the forefront of the story is not only about time but means there is more history to be shared and told.
Mulligan and Fiennes are amazing together in this film because of their characters mutual love of discovery. When they are on screen together, it is something to behold bringing Edith and Basil’s story full circle. Edith for her generosity and Brown’s contribution to discovering and protecting the discovery at Sutton Hoo.
The cinematography is striking and adds to the authenticity of the vision and tale director Stone is trying to convey. As a fan of all-things history, the scenes of the dig are wonderful and believable. This film takes the viewer on an amazing journey of discovery, not just of archeology but of the lives of those who believed in something great than themselves.
In the end – nothing stays lost forever!