Do you remember those history lessons at school where you felt yourself much more invested in a particular subject than others? I was always interested by groups who had inhabited England over the course of history and visiting historical sites such as Roman villages in the UK on school trips was always fascinating. Time Team, hosted by Tony Robinson from Blackadder, is a show I watched every so often and they unearthed some great finds, and that's exactly what The Dig, a new film from Netflix, reminded me of.

Hired by Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) was an excavist who worked on the historically important excavation of Sutton Hoo in the late 1930s. 

It was always going to be interesting to see how they went about telling this story, The Dig sounding like a title for a low-budget horror title where they unearth an army of undead soldiers or something like that. Not to worry on that front though as The Dig is a heartfelt and often touching portrayal of a major historical find in British history, drenched in beautiful cinematography of Sutton Hoo and the surrounding Suffolk scenery from Mike Eley.

The narrative builds a key dynamic between Edith Pretty and Basil Brown, the pride he takes in his work and determination he shows to get it done offering her a new outlook on life, the interest her young son shows in Basil with the loss of a father figure in his life adding a new layer to the emotional stakes of the film that pre-exist in her state of health. Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan are both really good here and together they really do light up this historic drama.

The film falters a little when trying to cram in a few subplots that feel a tad undeveloped, such as the romance between Johnny Flynn's Rory Lomax and Lily James' Peggy Preston. It's a romance that isn't necessarily forced, more rushed if anything and has the feeling of a segment of the plot that they nearly forgot to tie-up towards the end. There's a hint of a power struggle for who controls the dig site that could have been explored a little more to add some tension to proceedings but its brushed off rather quickly.

Stefan Gregory's gentle score suitably accompanies the film and its surroundings, where an impressive cast of familiar faces bring their range of experience to the table to ensure The Dig becomes one of those nice and cosy films to settle down to.

Verdict: ★★★½


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