Going Clear
Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Going Clear - Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Made in: USA
Language: English
Director: Alex Gibney
Year: 2015

Synopsis: Based on the book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright, director Alex Gibney gives us an in-depth look at one of the world's most controversial religions.

We get an extensive look at the religion's history, which of course involves the backstory of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. And at the core of the presentation are candid and explosive interviews by former members, including:

- Paul Haggis, Oscar-winning director
- Mark Rathbun, the church's former #2 man
- Mark Rinder, former director of the church's Office of Special Affairs
- Sylvia Taylor, former liaison to John Travolta
- Actor Jason Beghe
- And former scientologists Hana Whitfield, Sara Goldberg, and Tom Devocht

We hear about how the former members were first drawn to Hubbard and his religion, and how their deep involvement led down a rabbit hole of mind control, bizarre behavior, and the near implosion of their very lives. What lies under the innocuous veneer of "self-improvement" and desire to "change the world for good that Scientology promotes?

Is it nothing more than a kooky religion? Or is there a more insidious reason why Tom Cruise has that crazy, borderline maniacal laugh during all of his interviews?

Alex Gibney digs deep into specific allegations that most of us probably aren't aware of, such as the church's use of intimidation, emotional manipulation, thought/information control, and in many cases, outright physical beatings, to keep its members in line. So is it just a strange religion or a dangerous cult?

Remarks: Going Clear is very engaging, highly informative, emotional, and at times, downright scary. Yet director Alex Gibney never smacks us in the face with a heavy-handed approach. He lets the impact of each interviewee's personal account speak for itself, as well as the documented words of its current leader, David Miscavige. 

In many cases, we're simply told how scientology works, using the group's own terminology and archival footage of L. Ron Hubbard in his own words. I'm guessing that would be enough to help most viewers form an opinion.

As you would expect, we're given a close-up look at Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and their involvement as the highest profile scientologists in the world. Those moments are powerful and frightening, as we can only speculate on just how seriously the religion might be affecting their respective mental states. 

But the documentary never stoops to tabloid-level gossip, and we're left wondering whether or not to regard Cruise and Travolta with either contempt or pity. 

Intentional or not, Going Clear serves as a cautionary tale not just about the influence of Scientology, but of cults in general. And despite the access to information we have thanks to the internet, the undue influence of high control groups (aka cults) continue to ruin lives. 

No matter how intelligent or educated we are, undue influence has the ability to affect us all…but only if we allow it. Our ability to think for ourselves is a valuable asset, and one that should never be surrendered. 

For as long as the link is available, I recommend you watch the documentary for yourself here

(4 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang 

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