The Dig, the Netflix produced drama about the Sutton Hoo archaeological dig site and the unsung heroes of the find comes at a time when prestige dramas aren’t so much missing from our screens but come with a weighty rental fee, let alone the opportunity to buy the film outright. Starring Carey Mulligan & Ralph Feinnes and full of cameos from a spattering of British character actors, director Simon Stone’s film, based off a book of the same name by John Preston, is the kind of optimistic and well intentioned storytelling its hard not to take pause and appreciate for the pleasant historical footnote that it is. Then again, this story of the ignored is pumped full of melodrama to the point where the real story is forgotten, making a film of patient homage to two people long owed their due, just another historical tearjerker.
While Mulligan and Fiennes are well cast as landowner Edith Pretty and undervalued excavator Basil Brown, the dry, thin material they are given does little to highlight a story of pride and determination, instead painting the two as unloved put upon people, people deserving of pity like they aren’t grown ups making choices. Despite using the beautiful English countryside as a wonderous backdrop thanks to Mike Eley’s photography, shots that paint a romantic picture of pre war England and the optimism that came with it is sullied by a B plot involving a miscast Lily James that rewrites history for the sake of a tawdry love affair, an attempt at padding a film missing a hook, something to pull you in. While the artefacts and knowledge uncovered at Sutton Hoo should never be forgotten and neither should the true heroes of the discovery, The Dig won’t last the test of time its subject matter