THE DIG – Review by Susan Granger

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Set in 1939 in the countryside as England was on the brink of W.W.II, this period drama stars Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) as wealthy, widowed Lady Edith Pretty who believes there are historical artifacts buried on her estate, known as Sutton Hoo, near the River Deben

Since neither the renown British Museum nor the local Ipswich Museum will dispatch an experienced archeologist to evaluate her claims, she hires a local excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes), to uncover whatever treasure lies beneath the mysterious mounds of earth.

Although he lacks formal training, willful, self-taught Brown is passionate about ‘digs,’ claiming he can identify dirt from anywhere in Suffolk and he can pinpoint the land it came from. Encouraged by his devoted wife (Monica Dolan), he’s propelled by the belief that learning about the past teaches future generations where they came from.

Sure enough, with ailing Mrs. Pretty’s encouragement, Brown discovers what will turn out to be the greatest, early medieval treasure ever unearthed in the United Kingdom.

It’s an 80’-long, wooden Anglo-Saxon ship hauled up on land to bury East Anglia’s 7th century ruler, King Raedwald. In the burial chamber were his helmet, gold belt buckle, sword & shield, along with a tiny gold coin known a “Merovingian tremisss.” 263 objects in all.

That discovery draws the attention of Brown’s pretentious Ipswich Museum bosses (Paul Ready, Peter McDonald), along with arrogant Charles Phillips (Ken Stott) from the British Museum, who declares the ancient vessel is of significant cultural interest, placing the site under Ministry control.

Meanwhile, there are several subplots: one involves Mrs. Pretty’s young son Robert (Archie Barnes), another pivots around her dashing photographer cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) and a pair of unhappily married archeologists: Stuart Piggott (Ben Chaplin) and his wife Peggy (Lily James).

Based on a true story it’s adapted by Moira Buffini from a 2007 novel by John Preston (Peggy Piggott’s nephew) and sedately helmed by theater director Simon Stone.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Dig” is a solid, satisfying 7, streaming on Netflix.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.