Film Review: The Dig

The Dig is the best movie of 2021 I’ve seen, easily. Sure that’s technically because it’s also the only movie of 2021 I’ve seen so far, but honestly I’m just so stoked that Netflix actually put out a good film for once that I’m going to go all in on overhyping this job well done.

Basic Synopsis: The only giant mounds around here hide landfills, but in pre WWII Suffolk England there be treasure.

First Things First: At first I thought the makeup artists hated Carey Mulligan, then I assumed she was aged because of her character’s declining health, but I just did the math and it turns out she’s playing a 55 year old. Interesting choice.

Brief Thoughts: With the globetrotting, high danger adventures of the Uncharted and Tomb Raider series being the level of treasure seeking I’m used to, you wouldn’t think a story as simple as digging beneath a few mounds in the English countryside would be enough to keep my interest, and yet thanks to the enthusiasm from Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes’ characters, my level of intrigue and excitement never waned throughout the entirety of The Dig. Admittedly some of Simon Stone’s artistic choices involving the dialog from scenes happening outside of them as VO took a bit of getting used to, but I eventually appreciated how this unconventional decision, mixed with the atypical shot compositions that often dwarfed the actors hidden in the far corners within the frame of empty space, helped depict the overall message of how small we are in the face of history, as time flows all around us. Yet no matter how imperceptible we feel our small fraction of influence may be, we are still part of something greater. Ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust.

Favorite Line: “From the first human handprint on a cave wall, we’re part of something continuous. So we don’t really die.”

Biggest Complaint: The Dig fails a bit at fully exploring this theme as time is split between Edith Pretty and smaller storylines centered on the peripheral characters – as much as I love Lily James and representation on the whole, her side plot with her husband could easily be removed – and I think keeping focus solely on Pretty and her young son as they grapple with her mortality in light of her failing health would’ve been a more effective route to take. Pretty being a spiritualist (assuming Wikipedia is correct in labeling her as such), and the hope this movement had on seeing what lies beyond death could’ve easily lent itself to this theme, but unfortunately The Dig never touches on this aspect of her life.

One Last Thing: But what’s buried under the other mounds!?

Final Thoughts: The Dig falters a bit in doing its message justice as less impactful storylines pull focus from time to time, but darn it if I wasn’t fully invested in watching this group slowly uncover hints at the past thanks in large part to wonderful performances by everyone involved, and their characters’ simple, infectious joy at discovery.

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