The Dig – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, Johnny Flynn, Ben Chaplin and Ken Stott
Directed by Simon Stone
Written by Moira Buffini and John Preston
Length: 112mins

Not too far from Active Spectator Headquarters, a great Anglo Saxon burial site was discovered in 1939 by archaeologist Basil Brown and the landowner Edith Pretty. 2021’s Netflix release, ‘The Dig’, looks to tell the story of the find, and the people who worked to unveil the treasures hidden beneath the ground. 

‘The Dig’ is a really beautiful film, with the flat Suffolk landscape creating the perfect backdrop for the outdoor labour undertaken by the characters. Whether a darker tinge floods the sky, or the glow of a sunset lights a scene, the film captures these moments really well and creates some visually stunning moments. Furthermore, the pre-war costumes and set design works both accurately within the context of the period, whilst also becoming another interesting aesthetic detail within ‘The Dig’. 

At the heart of this story is the actions of Ralph Fiennes’ Basil Brown, as he tries to do what he believes is right after making such a grand discovery. The idea that future generations have a right to know what the lives of their ancestors was like is a recurring theme throughout the film, and is perhaps no better explored than by Fiennes’s character. Furthermore, the actors efforts to accurately pull off a Suffolk accent went as far as learning from those in the local community, and that type of detail comes through really clearly within his character.

Overall, the acting is great from the whole cast, but Carey Mulligan stands out in particular as delivering one of the best performances. Her role as the mother of a young child and someone dealing with a recent loss creates a conflict which divides her character, and highlights how important this particular discovery is, as well as the way in which we individually can influence history and create a legacy.

‘The Dig’ is a fairly simple and easy to follow story, but the messages it explores and the way it presents them to the audience makes it stand out as a particular highlight for the start of this year. Through the performances, cinematography and dialogue, Simon Stone creates a film which lulls you into its environment and characters, and delivers some interesting ideas and themes whilst you’re there.

Darkest Hour – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ronald Pickup. Directed by Joe Wright Written by Anthony McCarten Length: 125mins

In 2017 Joe Wright directed this undeniably captivating account of Winston Churchill’s ‘darkest hour’ in 1940 as Hitlers forces were gathering across the channel, poised to invade. While the subject matter naturally prepares it’s audience for a tension-building portrayal of such an important period of Great British history, it’s not only the plot that is worthy of it’s audiences attention. This is not so much a period war drama, rather a detailed political thriller presenting a leader up against not only one of the sheer enormity of Hitlers Nazi Germany, but political swipes within his own Government.

While obviously the key plot points are guided by historical fact, it’s important to recognise that there are moments of fiction written into the film. It’s an interesting opportunity to remind a contemporary audience that big issues did not simply vanish the moment Churchill took over as Prime Minister, and with such a famous outcome it seemed to be a difficult challenge for the filmmakers to really paint the picture wherein the characters didn’t know the outcome of the events of the story. 

Darkest Hour collected a fantastic array of nominations and wins throughout the 2018 awards season, with Gary Oldman’s performance as Churchill winning most of the prestigious ‘best actor’ awards. It’s clear that without Oldman this films success may not have been so prolific. He manages to demonstrate Churchill’s courage effortlessly while still presenting the ‘grumpy old man’ with glimpses of humour. While Oldman is the main draw of the film, his co-stars of Lily James and Kristen Scott-Thomas bring a really lovely balance to the other characters on screen throughout.

Joe Wright is a reliable filmmaker with a very impressive list of filmography. You can’t help but notice the large scale features on that list including Anna Karenina, Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, with Darkest Hour fitting in nicely with the aesthetic of some of his previous works. Darkest hour is  a crowd-pleasing historical epic that knows when to keep moving and when to dwell on a moment.

There seems to be a renewed appetite for wartime movies in recent times and this one is an important watch amongst the others. Darkest Hour manages to exhibit Churchill’s daring bravery while not fully absolving him nor idolising him, rather it humanises him. I would suggest that for the sake of history this film is a necessary watch, but even if you have no interest in history it is Gary Oldman giving a masterclass for over two hours and that alone is reason to watch Darkest Hour.