December 8, 2021

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The Dig: the critic who rolled his shovel to dig his grave on Netflix

At the request of a wealthy widow, a self-taught archaeologist digs in the heart of a possible medieval burial site, as Britain prepares to declare war on Nazi Germany. Has Netflix found a brilliant melody or updated another corpse with The Dig?

Netflix may take pride in producing or buying here and there prestigious creations from acclaimed authors, a platform with 200 million subscribers above all else has to provide its users with streaming, even if that means prioritizing quantity over quality. On paper, ostensibly from a small British drama with outdated context and archetypal characters, The Dig has everything to go unnoticed and into the all-around product broadcast by giant SVoD. The surprise generated by Simon Stone’s second feature film is even bigger.

As soon as it opens, director Simon Stone signs it and immerses us in the heart of the action as a humble excavator traverses Suffolk to find a strange dig site. Editing likes to synchronize the action, while the camera is much smoother than expected navigating between characters. In just a few seconds, the stakes were raised and the crystal network, but very accurate symbols settled before our eyes.

While Basil Brown finally had a chance to fulfill himself, the bourgeois Madame Pretty came to life and approached the tomb with the same gesture. This will be the case with all the protagonists, carried away by the impulses of their hearts, carried away by history. Eyes on the clouds and the impending bombardment, hands digging the ground, simultaneously housing the ancient burial chambers and the secrets of their existence. Fatalism and desire gradually mingle, while the plot bonds, layers of mistakenly agreed provincial romanticism crack to reveal so much intimate tragedy.

Stone was in a good school and maintained the teachings of Malick or Lubezki and the spirit with which Michael Mann renewed the image of historical film. And if he’s not aiming here for a great cosmogonic journey or throwing us into a horny post-modern thriller, he’s constantly subverting the extraordinary identity of the little drama that’s right for him. Varying goals and angles, always taking the pulse of his character, he always manages to energize the action, even in the fake static chronicles of lengthy archaeological excavations.

Editing is relentless and employs outdated a priori techniques, willingly extends the dialogue action rendered over several sequences, but employs the effects with rare precision, and more than once succeeds in subverting the expectations of overconfident viewers. Regularly, from this collection combined with Mike Eley’s lavish photography are born beaches of unexpected contemplation, pulsating dots of poetry. Arriving in the middle of the semester, while the screenplay renews the stakes and injects a new batch of characters, the entire cast uncovers a treasure trove of intensity.

Instead of playing against work, the director focuses on the precision of his cast, entrusting each with a role ideally calibrated for him, which he ends up passing. Carey Mulligan fascinates with every glance, doubling in intensity as her life eludes her. Ralph Fiennes, he treats us with the timeless brilliance of a beagle rejected by the Royal Shakespeare Company, while Lily James, he manages to exude despite his predictable short role. So The Dig stands out as one of the most heartwarming surprises of the year.