Silent and calming movies can sometimes bore me. "Not much happens," I thought as I usually watched a film like that. But not The Dig . Like News of the World , I feel myself being dragged away peacefully in a reassuring drift in the film that has been broadcasting on Netflix since the end of January. Not much happened, but I never wanted to escape from her world so alluring.
The story is very simple, actually. Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), a landowner in Suffolk, England hires a Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) excavator to dig a mound near his house because he has a feeling there is something underneath. Basil agrees. Basil digs. They found something. Like I said before, not much happened. But how director Simon Stone and writer Moira Buffini present the story is what makes The Dig such an attractive work.
The Dig is a film that tells a real history. Everything happened and all the characters were real. At least that is what I know so far because I have not researched its history very deeply. This film does not choose to try to make the film tense, or to be fast and rushed. However, this film prefers to let the camera follow Edit and Basil on their journey of digging through history with a soothing tempo and plot and a quiet and lonely atmosphere.
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During the film, we are presented with a vast area of land that looks spacious and quiet as far as the eye can see. Usually on the screen there are only a number of characters that can be counted by fingers. Maybe they dig, then speak a word, and continue digging. The calm atmosphere does make this film reconcile, but it also makes the film's story more intimate as we get closer to the characters in it. Cinematographer Mike Eley not only beautifully shows a very beautiful land with clear visuals but also makes sure we always follow the characters in it with the camera always close by so that we feel every footstep and every dig of the characters. There is a sense of closeness when we watch it.
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This intimacy that we feel also works very strongly because the two main characters are more than capable of making the story of this film come alive. After previously playing in a very striking and powerful film in Promising Young Woman , we now see Carey Mulligan playing a character who might look 180 degrees different than before. Here, the character is much calmer, much calmer than Cassie in Promising Young Woman and amazingly Carey perfectly plays both characters. Whether to be a fiery avenger or a quiet historian, he manages to bring his two characters to life and touch us even though they have different traits, and that I always admire him.
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With Edith Pretty, Carey Mulligan has played a character who can tell her story and past with only the emotions on her face and how she puts her words into words. As the film progresses, we learn more and more why Edith is so eager to dig up the nearby mound. We also learn about his tragic existence in this story, where we feel more and more sympathy for him. This is where the film hits us emotionally with the existence and condition of its characters which are not only tragic, but also heartbreaking.
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Likewise with Basil Brown who was perfectly played by Ralph Fiennes. At the beginning of the film, we see that Basil is just someone who looks fierce and often puts his opinion forward than the opinions of others, but as the film's story progresses, he is increasingly investing his soul and body in the digging and work he has given him. Whether it was evening or it was raining heavily, he always tried to keep the excavation in perfect condition and never forgot it. With Basil, Ralph has shown the nature of someone who is ambitious but also knows what is personal and common interest, and by his character we have seen someone who will stop at nothing.
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The Dig does have a really good story, but it's how the characters interact and are motivated to get the job done is what makes this film truly captivating. Basil and Edith are two different people. They come from very different backgrounds and social status. But we are given the opportunity to see how the two of them ended up fighting together for a history that has not been revealed. The longer we spend with the two of us, the greater the sense of emotion we have poured into this film and that's the biggest reason why this film the farther the journey makes us more comfortable.
On the one hand, we never want to get away from following Basil and Edith in revealing a history, but on the other hand, The Dig feels too long because of the many characters passing by that the story sometimes gets distracted from the main story, such as the tragic romance of a young digger. Peggy Piggott (Lily James), who feels abandoned by her husband, who is much more concerned with the excavation, ends up being attracted to another digger who is Edith's cousin. The Dig looks like it wants to make small stories around the main story, and it does manage to pull us off emotionally, but overall the side story feels like it's just an addition that doesn't really affect the main foundation of the film.
Does that lower my rating of this film? Certainly not. After the film finished, I had a very pleasant feeling. This is a fun movie. We don't need to think too hard. We just need to submit ourselves to the chorus of the film's soothing tempo and see how the longer this film draws us more and more and produces a compelling and captivating story. The Dig is one of the best Netflix films of early 2021. Are we now witnessing the rise of Carey Mulligan? Hopefully.
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