Director: Simon Stone
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, Lily James
Streaming on: Netflix
Ralph Fiennes is an institute of acting. His portrayal of Monsieur Gustave H. in Wes Anderson’s modern classic The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) is a personal favorite. Here in The Dig too, the actor gives a magnificent performance as Basil Brown, an excavator who loves his job, and is no short of a genius in his field. He could tell the origin of a soil by just smelling it.
Fiennes’ performance as Basil Brown can easily be prescribed to aspiring acting students to learn voice modulation, less is more w.r.t. emoting, and body language – getting into the skin of the character. Brown is employed by Edith Pretty to dig the mounds in her property as she thinks there must be something beneath them. Carey Mulligan (in superb form) plays Edith Pretty to perfection. Fiennes and Mulligan play off each other splendidly from the very first scene where they meet.
A widowed Mrs. Pretty is suffering from a heart ailment. She tries to hide it from her son Robert (an adorable Archie Adams). But he is stronger than she thinks he is. Robert and Brown get along really well. There’s an array of supporting characters – all actors doing their jobs sincerely. A standout from those is Lily James as Peggy who also works on the excavation once it is undertaken by British Museum.
All of this is happening ahead of World War II in 1939. The film is based on a true story and a novel of the same name by Jon Preston about the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo. The screenplay by Moira Buffini compiles these events smartly in little less than two hours of screen-time. Cinematography, mostly hand-held by Mike Eley captures the uncertainty of the events brilliantly. Stefan Gregory’s music gives the archeological drama a much needed edginess. Simon Stone’s direction and Jon Harris’ editing makes The Dig a treasure worthy movie experience. It is streaming on Netflix. Do watch it.