The Dig (2021)
Updated: Feb 5
Suffolk in the late 30s sets the tone of this film. Suffolk in any era sets a tone to be fair. Ralph Fiennes is Basil Brown, with a thick accent that to at least my ears sounds very convincing. He’s here to excavate. Employed by a widower, Mrs Pretty (Carey Mulligan) to find out what’s under a series of earth mounds on the seemingly vast property she lives on with her young son. It’s considered a folly by others in the field, a distraction from more important projects with a war looming. It’s a simple start, to a story that will open much wider. A little mutual appreciation of one another between Pretty & Brown and lots of digging out in the endless Suffolk skies (although it was filmed in Surrey). That’s where the tone comes from. There’s a relaxed space, a calm, a sense of wonder of the world. It’s quite spectacular. Based on a true story, what lies beneath the earth is as spectacular as what hangs above it. I’m not sure I should spoil it, but suffice to say it’s something big, something important, something that will see Basil needing some more help. Enter Rory (Johnny Flynn), a ray of energetic sunshine it has to be said, just as we learn that his cousin Mrs Pretty has a condition that means she should be avoiding stress. Not easy when The British Museum wants to muscle in on the dig, upsetting everyone, especially Basil. His face doesn’t fit, but his impeccable work earns him some respect, this film though is here to help set the historical record straight. And so they dig, the team growing larger as the warplanes fly above. The supporting cast is very good. Ben Chaplin, Lily James, Ken Scott, they all create a wonderful microcosm of class structure, ego and even sexual tension. Basil has always had his theories about what it is they might unearth. Theories that Charles Phillips (Scott) ‘The Expert’ debunks time and again, only for it to come clear that our hero Basil was right all along. There’s a lot more going on here than the dig itself, as with all good stories, it’s merely the vehicle that brings characters together and let’s their story be told. Stories of loss, of love, of fear and hope.