Released on Jan. 15 and currently available to stream on Netflix, “The Dig,” directed by Simon Stone, starts 2021 the right way in the world of cinema. Starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and Lily James, “The Dig” takes a unique approach to the lifestyle and problems people encountered during the World War II era. “The Dig” is based on a true story and novel of the same title written by John Preston. The film focuses on Edith Pretty (Mulligan), a young widow who lives in Sutton Hoo, United Kingdom, who hires Fiennes’ character, archaeologist Basil Brown, to excavate some dirt mounds in hopes of a magnificent find.
The beginning of the film perfectly establishes the English countryside setting during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The gorgeous landscape shots continue throughout the story and are essential to each scene. This decision is a clever move on the filmmaker’s part because it contributes to the overall theme of nature and its role in creating balance. The elegant piano music that appears during the film also highlights the beauty found in each of the landscape scenes. The setting varies but rarely focuses on the indoors for more than 10 minutes, and because of this, it showcases different weather and parts of nature in extraordinary ways. When the scene changes, there are unique camera positions that allow the audience to enjoy what’s happening in the scene, even when there is no dialogue to accompany it. The scenery itself contributes to the plot as a work of art and is timed well enough to capture the moment while feeling well-paced.
The wardrobe and set design are essential in capturing the film’s time period. “The Dig” takes an atypical approach to showcasing war by redirecting the focus from war to specific people’s lives. The film jumps right into the storyline and the dialogue, which never hesitates to capture the audience’s attention. The background music identifies well with the circumstances on screen, and the choice to use a piano for most of the film again intensifies the film’s time period. There are tons of lines of dialogue that hold meaning much greater than the film itself, which makes the overall tone of the film serious and heavy.
The plot is nowhere near straightforward, even though the idea of watching an archeologist excavate potential relics might suggest so. There are also side storylines created through the characters’ relationships, which makes the film more interesting and foreshadows what is to happen. Even though she is not the main character, Lily James does a decent job at her role as Peggy Preston and makes her storyline fascinating to watch play out. Mulligan and Fiennes carry the film with their interactions on screen and the relationship their characters build, which makes the heart feel satisfied by the end of the film. The entire cast brilliantly captures the situations at hand.
Overall, the original film shots paired with the interesting perspective of a story during World War II encapture the beauty of filmmaking, which is the epitome of creative art coming together. Combining the complexity of its themes and unique characters in the story, “The Dig” magnificently portrays what a film should be.