Tobias Nilsson’s review published on Letterboxd:
On the brink of WWII opening up, Edith Pretty is determined to have some old mounds on her property excavated. Basil Brown is reluctantly hired to do the job, but his enthusiasm quickly grows, as it becomes apparent that they have something quite extraordinary on their hands.
Likewise, the personal lives of the Pretty family, primarily Edith and her son Robert, become entangled with that of Basil, his wife May, and the rest of the team that joins in.
It is a slow work, trying to preserve everything from the past, while at the same time being on a tight deadline, with the future lurking its ugly head just around the corner.
I first heard about The Dig in a H.P. Lovecraft forum I frequent. No, it's not a horror film, and as such has nothing to do with the old gent, except for a small easter egg - the son, Robert, is reading the magazine Amazing Stories in one scene, and the page is open on an illustration of HPL's The Shadow out of Time.
But that's entirely too much time spent on such a small detail already.
There's something magical about the English countryside, and The Dig does a very good job capturing it. The two main locations, the titled dig, and the manor in which the Pretty family resides, are both lovely, and for shorter stints we also get to see nearby villages, London, and a bit more.
The picture is toned down, pleasing, and warm, much as the film is.
The tempo is slow as well, and I found it relaxing and enjoyable all the way. A higher cutting rate, shorter scenes, or fastmoving cameras would be the wrong fit altogether for the story, and I like the fact that it took its time.
Ralph Fiennes is great as the aging excavator Basil Brown, but really, I must hand it to all the cast. Heck, even young Archie Barnes as Robert gives an engaging and sweet performance, and this is only his second credited film! If he keeps this up, he'll be a household name in no time.
I found The Dig engaging, thrilling, and quite delightful. Towards the end, they managed to turn the feels up as well, but still keeping a safe and steady hand on the throttle, so as not to overdo it.
I don't know, maybe you need even a budding interest in archeology to spend almost two hours watching a hill being dug out, but I don't think so. The Dig has more to offer than that, in its own calm and subtle way.