Excavation, directed by Simon Stone, is based on a 2016 book of the same name by John Preston. The story features the Sutton Hoo excavations in 1939, which resulted in a discovery that changed our perception of the Dark Ages.
I expected the movie to use excavation as a mechanism to tell a human story, but it uses it to try to tell multiple stories. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite work. All in all, all the movie leaves you with is an archeology history lesson and some nice cinematography.
The film opens with irresistible energy
The film opens with irresistible energy. Mike Eley’s cinematography is spontaneous and dynamic. Without a doubt, I was quite quickly won over by the presentation of the film, and for most of the film, it fueled my interest. The central location of a field in Suffolk could have been extremely boring, but surprisingly, the presentation manages to find and accentuate its beauty.
The film uses a hand-held camera using wide-angle lenses, which allows the camera to get incredibly close to the subject while still keeping it in the frame. Through this, Stone creates a sense of intimacy with the characters and a sense of tactility with the dirt from the excavation.
It’s very derived from the style of Terence Malek
The presentation of the film is good, but we must not forget that it is very derived from the style of Terence Malek. I think Malek A hidden life (2019) is a brilliant film, and in a few minutes Excavation opening the similarities are already clear, but unfortunately after a third of Excavation 112 minutes of running time, it becomes evident that the similarities are only on the surface level.
The Dig started to look like a superficial imitation. It’s not that the story, or should I say the stories, of Excavation are insignificant, but the script doesn’t do enough emotional pathos to justify this style of presentation. However, it can just be a problem with the score; he was often completely out of place.
“From the first imprint of a human hand on the wall of a cave, we are part of something continuous.”
Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and Lily James star in THE DIG, which hits Netflix worldwide on January 29. pic.twitter.com/ceXnIm7CNz
– NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) December 3, 2020
It’s hard to say if the film is too focused on the history of the excavation to properly render the human stories compelling, or if it is simply poorly executed. All of the characters, whether it’s Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes), Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), or Peggy Preston (Lily James), have character arcs that can be extrapolated.
These stories often feel like they’re only there because they should be, and therefore seem fabricated.
Basil Brown questions her worth in archeology, Edith Pretty deals with questions of mortality, and Peggy Preston faces a sad emotional truth about her marriage. Yet these stories often feel like they’re only there because they should be, and therefore seem fabricated.
every shot in THE DIG is basically a painting pic.twitter.com/2IHNCI1YVX
– NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) February 10, 2021
It gets worse though – Peggy Preston’s subplot shouldn’t be here quite. Towards the halfway point, the film throws this subplot, which revolves around an unhappy married couple without romance and passion, into the mix, and its inclusion is so odd.
The film tries to tie it thematically to a gibberish about the ephemeral and permanence associated with excavation. However, it feels like it’s just there to achieve a longer runtime and add some juicy drama for the second half of the movie.
The movie sometimes seems to worry, it’s boring
The movie, at times, seems to worry about being boring. That’s why I think it adds the romantic subplot. Still, it gets worse because every now and then it will create an artificial dramatic moment to add a lazy action spectacle.
The Dig: Archive Shows Real Archaeologist From Netflix Movie https://t.co/NHSEeTAQgZ
– BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) February 6, 2021
Suddenly, a plane will crash nearby, or someone will be crushed under the earth of the excavation. These moments are confusing and really show a lack of confidence in the matter.
Excavation is a boring movie about people digging in the ground
These are well-worn attempts to try and prevent anyone from brandishing this movie like a boring movie about people digging in the ground – but I won’t fall for it! Excavation is a boring movie about people digging in the ground.
There are redeemable aspects to Excavation. The cinematography, as mentioned before, is very nice and the performance is good throughout. I really want to like this movie more; if its potential had been fully exploited, it could have been a very beautiful movie.
He just needed to have more faith in his own material, cut off the artificial drama, and focus a little more. Currently, Excavation only worth watching if the topic interests you or as harmless afternoon fodder.
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