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52. The Dig; movie review

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Title : 52. The Dig; movie review
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Cert 12A
111 mins
BBFC advice: Contains brief moderate sex, sex references

The Dig is a relief because it is a throwback to times when, despite the intense pressure of an inevitable war, people maintained their dignity.
This politeness wasn't reserved to the upper crust.
I remember growing up in the 1960s and the working classes dressing in their Sunday best and neighbours being known as aunts and uncles.
I digress - although I was inspired by the clipped tones and proper respect the characters of The Dig show each other, even when they are riled.
Nowadays, if there were rivalries similar to those at the excavations at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk in 1939, tempers would be lost and recriminations would have been blazed across the media.
Simon Stone's film presents to protagonists as proud and wanting due credit for their amazing find but still courteous.
First among those deserved of acclaim was Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) who was brought in to start the dig by landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan).
Fiennes plays Brown as an upstanding Suffolk archaeologist who is called in to investigate the strange mounds at Sutton Hoo.
He is polite but firm in his approach while kindly towards her young son (Archie Barnes) whose father died a few years previously.
Brown takes up the dig with gusto and is having grand fun alongside the ailing Mrs Pretty.
However, it turns out that there are a competitive spirit and a hierarchy among archaeologists, so when Brown makes a stunning discovery, there is suddenly a queue of those wanting a piece of the action.
Stone captures the excitement well and tempers it against the backdrop of a world about to be at war and a society who appear to have corsets tied around their emotions.
However, because he is making the film in the 2020s, he couldn't resist a bit of romance - bringing in Lily James as one of the British Museum team who is falling out of love with her stiff-shirt husband (Ben Chaplin) and turns her head towards Mrs Pretty's dashing cousin (Johnny Flynn).
To be fair, in real life James's and Chaplin's characters were on the excavation team and were divorced after the war, so there is a grain of truth.
Indeed, I must give Stone and writers John Preston and Moira Buffini praise for not meddling too much with historical fact during the entire movie.
I had been doubtful that a woman who was apparently as advanced in years as Mrs Pretty would have had a son as young as hers but it was true that she gave birth at 47 - very unusual in those times.
By the way, I thought Mulligan was very good in the role of the ailing widow. 
It also struck me that Ken Stott's character - a pompous expert from the British Museum - was a rather convenient 'villain' but his presence is again accurate.
It all adds up to a combination of slightly twee, rather poignant and a moment in history which is as well preserved as the find at Sutton Hoo.

Reasons to watch: One of Britain's greatest archaeological finds
Reasons to avoid: Quite slow going

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Did you know? 
Scholars believe that the most likely person buried on the Sutton Hoo ship was Rædwald, king of East Anglia, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom which included the present-day English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

The final word. Ralph Fiennes: "I think it's interesting and maybe lucky the film is coming out when we're in another time of uncertainty because of Covid. I hope people take a positive message from it, about what we can achieve through common endeavour and determination." BBC

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