“From the first human handprint on a cave wall, we’re part of something continuous.”Basil Brown
A gentle British drama around the discovery of the Sutton Hoo burial site in 1938, The Dig is enjoyable without injecting unnecessary artifice to largely mundane work or becoming overly twee in its historic countryside setting. The first half is the most compelling, as landowner Edith Pretty and excavator Basil Brown make the discovery. The kinship between Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan’s characters is evident, with Pretty protecting Brown from the elitist incursions of his more academically qualified peers, and Brown adopting a paternal role toward her son. Once word of the find spreads, the cast grows significantly and the film’s focus unfortunately drifts away from its strongest characters to address the relationships between the younger newcomers. Set against the urgency of imminent war, there is greater emotional breadth than one might expect from a burial excavation. However, with no characters so well established as Pretty and Brown, we are invariably less invested in their outcomes.