The Dig review: Netflix’s archaeological drama is imperfectly charming

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CAREY MULLIGAN AS EDITH PRETTY, RALPH FIENNES AS BASIL BROWN

LARRY HORRICKS / NETFLIX
‘What will survive of us in a thousand years?’ muses a Larkinian Lily James in The Dig, in which she plays an archeologist on the most important excavation of her lifetime. A coin, perhaps. Fragments of the mug she’s holding. Cogs from her lover’s watch. Little else.

A very British kind of melancholy soaks this film, about the remarkable discovery in 1939 of an Anglo-Saxon longship beneath mounds of earth near the Suffolk coast. It’s a story of two ill-matched halves: the first starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan, the second more sexed up, with Lily James opposite a smouldering Johnny Flynn in RAF hero regalia. The odd two-part structure doesn’t much matter, though, as all four actors fill out their roles as amply as their limited time allows, and at root, the tale of the archaeological find at Sutton Hoo is quite exciting.

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