Chances are good if you are interested enough to buy a ticket to the new Alex Gibney documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” you already know most of the information contained within.
Based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book of the same name, the movie doesn’t cover any unreported revelations. Instead, it does what film does best—show me, don’t tell me. Oscar winner Gibney is a master at layering images for maximum effect, visualizing the alleged tales of abuse within the church in a way that is much more visceral than a simple talking head doc.
For the uninitiated the accusations are quite shocking. Harassment crusades against ex-members and critics are detailed, as is corporal punishment for those who break the rules but choose to stay within the church. Billion year contracts, Tom Cruise’s extreme commitment to the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard—here’s a drinking game idea: take a shot each time someone really famous salutes a photo of L.R.H.—and the church’s war against the IRS are brought to vivid life.
It goes without saying that the Church of Scientology isn’t happy with “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.” The church’s head honchos have declared a media blackout and declined Gibney’s requests for interviews so the film appears somewhat one-sided. It’s a compelling take down of the religion but would have felt more balanced if current members of the church were included.