The Dig [8/10]

Based on a novel about a real event, “The Dig” is one of those minor-register British films that basks in deep character study and deep place orientation. Just prior to World War II, a burial mound in Suffolk is dug up for investigation by a self-taught archeologist Basil Brown (he self-effacingly labels himself ” an excavator”), revealing a hugely significant archeological treasure trove. The film mostly revolves around the Brown’s growing connection with the farm’s owner, plus the London bigwig archeologists who arrive to try to gain credit, but towards the end an engaging subplot emerges involving two young people. Without a doubt, Ralph Fiennes is the centerpiece of the film, superb as the pipe-smoking, laconic, prickly Basil Brown, but Carey Mulligan also shines as the widow farmer. Mike Eley’s cinematography evokes those Suffolk fields and interiors, and Simon Stone’s direction bustles the mild plot along. The Dig tackles the joy of scientific discovery and the loneliness of hearts, depositing on this viewer a satisfied aftertaste of insights. Altogether satisfying in an unemphatic style.

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