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‘The Dig’ is a buried treasure

| Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Jackie Junco | The Observer

Directed by Simon Stone, “The Dig” is an understated movie that will surprise all by how invested its audience will be. Based on a true story, the movie follows Edith Pretty as she hires excavator Basil Brown to dig in the fields on her property where she and her late husband believed something from the past was buried below. All of this takes place in 1939 England, complicating matters further and creating a race against time as the country prepares for war against Germany. As word of the amazing artifacts they discover spreads throughout England, archaeologists of all backgrounds come into play to generate complex and intertwining storylines as the characters work together to uncover human history.

The diverse personalities of the characters bring a heartwarming element to the movie that could have been very dry given the subject matter. Each individual relationship between the characters has a different dynamic which drives the complexities of the story. Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) is a countryman with his head in books and a heart of gold. Fiennes plays his character with humility and masterfully replicates Mr. Brown’s quiet passion for the past.

Mrs. Pretty (Carey Mulligan) is a widow with a gloomy future and an adorable son who wants to make his own discoveries one day. Then there’s the educated, bossy and lazy Mr. Phillips (Ken Stott) who inevitably takes all the credit for the work accomplished by Basil Brown and young Peggy Piggott (Lily James). While this is not a fast-paced movie, its slow-burn nature is balanced by the interesting personas seen on the screen.

One of the most striking themes of the film is this: Looking at the past can be a comfort when facing an uncertain future. In the beginning of the film, Basil says, “That speaks, doesn’t it? The past.” This idea is present throughout the film. In many moments when the characters are interacting, warplanes interrupt conversations as they fly overhead in preparation for the coming conflict. Since almost all of the attention will go to the war in the near future, clearing the dig site quickly is essential for the archaeologists. Otherwise, the past will continue to be forgotten.

It’s a morbid idea, but death comes for us all, and “The Dig” reminds the audience of this many times. However, knowing death will eventually come isn’t an excuse for the characters to keep themselves from reaching their goals.

There’s a particularly striking scene where Basil Brown is buried under falling dirt from the dig site, and when his colleagues dig him out and revive him, he seems to have a newfound drive for finding what’s buried underneath. This terrifying rebirth has a powerful message. Moments are meant to be seized. In fact, Mrs. Pretty tells Peggy this when she is at a crossroads in her life. Life may be short, but our legacies will continue in some way — whether it be through our loved ones or the physical things we leave behind to be found generations later. What makes “The Dig” so fascinating is that it shows the characters coming to terms with this philosophy by actively uncovering human history.

By the end of “The Dig,” the audience will have cried, yelled, stared at what was unfolding in awe and made guesses as to what the end will be. Though the film isn’t perfect, especially with it having a bit of a slow start, it still conveys universal themes that anyone would appreciate. You may not find “The Dig” trending on Twitter, but it is something that everyone should recommend to their friends.


Title: “The Dig”

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James

Director: Simon Stone

Genre: Historical drama

If you like: “The Imitation Game”

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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About Sophia Michetti

Sophia is a junior from Toledo, Ohio studying English and global affairs. She enjoys all things entertainment and dogs (especially beagles). Thank you for caring enough about her articles to read her bio!

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