By Chris Thomas | Sci-Fi
A group of UFO enthusiasts hunt for proof of alien life at a mysterious crop circle.

A small group of UFO enthusiasts are touring a field in rural England, which contains a crop circle — a mysterious phenomenon they hope will point to the existence of aliens.

But their tour van breaks down just as night falls, causing stress and unveiling their hired tour guide as a non-believer who scoffs at the group’s belief in extraterrestials and sees the crop circles as the work of a possible “agricultural Banksy.” But just as tensions comes to a head and the situation begins to look perilous, they have an encounter that reveals the real secret behind the circles.

Directed by Chris Thomas and written by Allan McLeod, this short may be about aliens, UFOs and perhaps paranormal phenomena, but it’s also an amiable comedy that pokes good-natured fun at both believers and skeptics.

With razor-sharp wit and dialogue — and a keen awareness of the foibles of human nature — the film offers a snapshot of how people can become entrenched in their beliefs and assumptions, throwing down when this almost tribal thinking becomes challenged or threatened.

The performances — as well as the deft camerawork and brisk on-point editing — excel, particularly in capturing the group dynamic, with all its quirky personalities. The comedy is often built on moments of misunderstanding, especially when characters are speaking from their soapboxes and not quite listening to one another. The dialogue is rich with funny one-liners, delivered by a excellent ensemble cast who offer richly specific performances that stake out their viewpoint without feeling too broad.

The result is a clever, nimble compact sci-fi comedy that never overstays its welcome. Excellently written and directed, “Cropped” excels at satirizing the line between conviction and dogma — and points a beaming spotlight on how the truth of a matter may always be more awesome and unbelievable than the human mind, with all its limitations, could ever comprehend.

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