Going Clear

 

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His Scientology movie finds Alex Gibney on great form, aided by Paul Haggis.

 

Going Clear

Tom Cruise backs the cause

 

The prolific documentarian Alex Gibney is one of our most reliable exponents of the genre and this film is up to his usual standard and, indeed, one of his best. The one weak point is the vague and unmemorable title which appears on the censor's certificate simply as Going Clear. Rather more helpful is the version shown in the credits, namely Going Clear  Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Even then there is no reference to Hollywood as incorporated in the title of the book which is acknowledged as a major source for this picture. That additional emphasis would not be inappropriate since the writer/director Paul Haggis is a key interviewee here and, while absent in person (which hardly surprises), the pre-existing footage used features two of Scientology's most famous supporters, Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

 

Not for the first time, Gibney opts for a relatively long running time (two hours), but there's so much ground to cover in portraying Scientology that the film holds up admirably. As one might guess, Going Clear is a confrontational look at the organisation which claims the status of a church and thus escapes paying tax in America. Many of those interviewed are former adherents (Haggis, one of them, speaks out with admirable candour) so they could have an axe to grind and, indeed, several written statements are included in which the  Church of Scientology denies the accuracy of what we are being told.

 

Nevertheless, whether it be in the film's coverage of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, in the changing nature of what Scientology claims to stand for or in the personal experiences recounted by the interviewees, most viewers will come to regard Gibney's welcome film as an eye-opening revelation.                  

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

  

Featuring  Paul Haggis, Hana Eltringham Whitfield, Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun, Spanky Taylor, Lawrence Wright. 

 

Dir Alex Gibney, Pro Alex Gibney, Lawrence Wright and Kristen Vaurio, Screenplay Alex Gibney, based on the book Going Clear  Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright, Ph Sam Painter, Ed Andy Grieve, Music Will Bates.

 

HBO Documentary Films/Sky Atlantic/Jigaw-Sky Atlantic.
120 mins. USA/UK. 201. Rel: 26 June 2015. Cert. 15.