A sequence of contrasting films contemporary and not are among the streaming highlights of this week. Netflix’s latest original film The Dig retreats to a pre-World War II Britain as it builds a quiet retelling of the true story of a historic archaeological dig, while new addition to the service Hotel Artemis jumps ahead to a chaotic near future Los Angeles in a hotel full of hardened criminals. Also notable: the addition of beloved high school comedy Mean Girls.
Speaking of high school, BBC iPlayer also plays host to is Alexander Payne’s political satire, Election, the highlight of a week where the service has prioritised historical dramas.
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The Dig - Netflix
Taking place in the vicinity of the Second World War, Netflix’s latest drama The Dig is the kind of earthy British drama that viewers will be fully clear on whether they’re predisposed to like it or not. If observational looks at lavish country homes scored by swooning strings and piano is your cup of tea, well, we have good news! Simon Stone’s direction is solid and overall workmanlike, with frequent flashes of real creative flair. Outside of those moments it appears as many other British films of its type, albeit one with a surprisingly strong landing to its humble story. The set up is that of a wealthy widow Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), who hires self-taught archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to excavate the burial mounds on her estate, which reveals a 7th century Anglo Saxon ship burial, an archeological discovery considered one of the most important in the country’s history.
Watch: Carey Mulligan talks to Yahoo about The Dig
Despite its up front declaration of being based on a true story there is some minor irritation when it comes to the film’s casting – as in reality, Edith Pretty was in fact Basil Brown’s senior by 5 years. Carey Mulligan is as great as usual, but her casting opposite Fiennes as Brown with the real context in mind leads one to wonder about how the dynamic between characters would differ if the film industry’s preference to cast older men with younger women had not interfered.
Factual accuracy is not the be-all and end-all of a biopic, but taking such creative licence around the characters at the film’s core feels suspect.
Hotel Artemis - Netflix
Writer of Iron Man 3 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Drew Pearce helms his first feature as director, in this original sci-fi action movie overtly inspired by the neon-drenched stylings of the John Wick films (as an increasing amount of action movies are).
Set in a near future Los Angeles, the eponymous hotel is a safe haven for criminals that clearly echos the Continental of the Keanu Reeves-led franchise, with an all-star cast of scumbags taking shelter within. Jodie Foster’s first acting role in five years sees her at the centre, managing the different abrasive personalities – among them, a charming Sterling K Brown and Dave Bautista, as well as Jeff Goldblum as a top figure of the underworld only referred to as ‘The Wolf King’.
Much of the cast elevates the material, as well as cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon (a regular collaborator with Oldboy director Park Chan-wook) who makes all of it feel visually compelling. All in all, a fun mid-budget distraction.
Also on Netflix: Mean Girls
Watch: Netflix Picks Up 'Skull Island,' 'Tomb Raider' Anime Series
Election - BBC iPlayer
Alexander Payne’s political allegory set within the confines of a high school will still hit notes that resonate with many today. An early standout role for Reese Witherspoon has her play the frustrating overachiever Tracy Flick, whose campaign for student council president is opposed by teacher Jim McAllister, a role for Matthew Broderick that feels somewhat ironic considering that unshakeable image of his as the guy who played Ferris Bueller.
It’s a deeply cynical but quite revealing film, one about a system of narcissism, which only creates villains and adversaries rather than a positive force for meaningful change.
Watch: Netflix's 'Bridgerton' Is the Most-Watched Series on Streaming Service
Also on iPlayer: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The White Crow