The true story of the 1938 excavation of Sutton Hoo, which
led to the discovery of a centuries-old Anglo-Saxon ship.
The Dig (2021)
Directed by Simon Stone
Written by Moira Buffini
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, Lily James, Johnny Flynn, Archie Barnes, Ben Chaplin, Ken Stott, Monica Dolan
Based on the novel by John Preston
The Dig features two fairly quiet performances from two actors who are usually boisterous and attention-demanding, Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan. Their understated dignity reflects the idea behind the movie, which is based on the true story of a famous archaeological find in 1938 England, right before the start of WWII. However, I found myself trying to figure out why I should be invested. The Dig uses WWII as a backdrop, as well as a constant looming threat, but the stakes never seem all that high. It just sort of totters along until it gets to the end. Ultimately, I guess what I'm wondering most of all is whether this was a story that really deserved a movie.
In 1938, a massive Anglo-Saxon ship was found in a field in England belonging to Mrs. Edith Pretty (Mulligan). That's pretty much the whole story. But in this movie, we deal with love triangles, looming illness, and a constant bickering over credit for the find. But none of this makes sense together. A lot of it is just there to pad out a story that doesn't translate all that well to film because of how dull it is. Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan really carry the movie, and even they are phoning it in. Lily James's entire character exists purely for a love triangle that doesn't need to be there, and we never even get to see the inquest that decided who really owns the find, which I thought would be the film's climax. I guess it doesn't really have one.
The Dig is one of the weaker films of the year so far. It's more or less made for a specific type of historical film fan. In the end, I didn't learn anything about the find itself, and I'm pretty sure the real people who uncovered it got shut out of the dramatization, or at least most of them. The whole film reeks of unworthy Oscar bait, but the story isn't as compelling as they make it out to be.