Netflix’s The Dig, a drama film starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes and directed by Simon Stone, is based on John Preston’s novel of the same name that was published in 2007. The story recreates the events that led to the discovery and further excavation of the historical ship-sculpture of Sutton Hoo.
The ailing but whimsical widow Edith Pretty (Mulligan) calls for an excavating job in a wide uneven piece of land in her property, that she believes possesses more than what meets the eye. The self-taught excavator Basil Brown (Fiennes), who has some fame in the town, is called for.
Mr. Reid Moir (Paul Ready), who is in-charge of Ipswich Museum, initially suggests Mr. Brown to give up on the digging job and assist the museum in matters more serious. Mr. Brown, with his organic expertise and superior experience, insinuates the remains to have been much older than the expected Viking Era, and pertain to the classic Anglo-Saxon age.
When Mr. Brown finds considerable success in his venture, Charles Phillip (Ken Stott) an archaeologist from the British Museum, demands that the authority for the excavation be given to them. The heartbroken Brown goes back home instead of reporting to Mrs. Pretty, but afterwards, when Mrs. Pretty’s son Robert (Archie Barnes) requests him to fulfil his promise, Brown abides by the child’s desire.
Do the much-revered Mr. Brown’s efforts come to pay? Or do the agents of the British Museum succeed in surmounting him?
The Dig ending explained in detail:
Young love beside the mound
Britain, being on the verge of entering World War II, has been recruiting young men in her troops. Little Robert’s cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn), who has been training for the army, is a preferred candidate.
While he is at the excavation spot, to lend a helping hand to Mr. Brown, he sets his eyes on Peggy Piggott (Lily James), who is in the location with her fiancé Mr. Piggott (Ben Chaplin), a worker for the British Museum.
Peggy is often neglected by her partner, and experiences a lack of love. She finds her true love in Rory, with whom she shares multiple passionate experiences, hiding from the rest, in desolate corners. Their perfect romance is broken when Rory receives his call for the war. Peggy bids him a melancholic goodbye and returns to her loveless relationship.
Later, Peggy convinces Mr. Piggott to go his own way to seek love, while she can go hers. In the end of the film, glimmering shots of the victorious Rory back from war, are shown. He kisses Peggy, his bride in waiting.
Excavation surpasses death
Little Robert is horrified by his mother Mrs. Pretty’s worsening health, and tells his befriended Mr. Brown that he has failed to take care of his mother. Mr. Brown takes him through his own philosophy of life. He assures him that everyone fails endless times.
Brown explains to the child that the past is never lost, and we restore it, so that the future knows where it is coming for. His philosophy sums up his profession of excavating the old, for the future of the new. The child is reassured, and promises his mother, that if she goes away, he will groom into a successful “space pilot”, and meet her in the skies.
Restoring Sutton Hoo
Mrs. Pretty, aware of her own fateful future caused by her failing health, reveals privately to Mr. Brown, that she will give the rights of the findings to the British Museum, because it is there that the maximum amount of people can see it. He promises that the museum will give Mr. Brown his due credit, and that Mr. Moir has told her that they will.
The film ends with a jarring shot of the digging being completed, with the extra soil being poured back, while Prime Minister Chamberlain’s voice in the background, regretfully announces that their country has joined the war.
The concluding texts on the screen tell the audience that the findings of Sutton Hoo were displayed to general public, nine years after the death of Mrs. Pretty, and that no credits were given to Mr. Brown. Only recently has Basil Brown’s contribution been recognized.