Going Clear is a scary documentary. Not in the traditional sense, it isn’t in any way a horror, but in the spotlight it places on the ever-growing religion of Scientology. It is scary because the documentary seems to have the truth of Scientology. It casts a light on the different practices, the bizarre beliefs and the often cruel and almost cult like treatment of the people who offer themselves to this religion. It also does a very good job of putting it’s point across as truth.
This is because the biggest strength of the movie is the people involved. Director Alex Gibney, known for documentaries like The Armstrong Lie, has tracked-down and interviewed people who were part of Scientology. Not just “low-level” believers but also people who helped at the very top of the organisation, worked closely with it’s leaders and helped make the religion the success it is today.
Each interview uncovers the shocking practices and often unbelievable ideas behind the religion. The movie cleverly adds credence to their claims too by interspersing pictures of the individuals, showing their involvement, often not in innocent practices or against their wishes, to demonstrate how close these people were to “the top.”
It can’t just be about the talking heads though and the general structure of the documentary is a very coherent one which unpicks and unlocks the secrets of the religion. It starts with it’s founder, L Ron Hubbard, and how he started Scientology and then develops into the practices of today and the current running of the organisation by David Miscavige. There is so much to cover but the pace and details of the movie means you will never be bored and if anything will be amazed with each new revelation.
There does feel like you have to take some of the documentary with a pinch of salt though. Not because the claims can not be believed or that they are fabricated in any way but because this does only give one side of the story. The best documentaries convey all sides of the story to give a rounded picture but here Scientology doesn’t defend itself. No statements from Miscavige, John Travolta or Tom Cruise, all of which fall under the spotlight.
You miss Scientology’s involvement because you want to hear their “justifications” for the stories we’ve been told. They apparently declined to be involved, which somewhat undermines the documentary slightly but the damage is done, without their involvement the audience is left to imagine the worse, rather than question the integrity of Alex Gibney’s revelations.
Overall, Going Clear is a very interesting, shocking and well-constructed look at the Church of Scientology. It is full of credible sources, revealing details and uncovered truths, all of which will shock people watching. Unfortunately, it is slightly let down by the lack of counter-argument, but Scientology themselves are the only ones who can be blamed for that.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)