Going Clear (Alex Gibney, 2015)

What's it about? An Emmy-award winning documentary featuring eight former Scientologists speaking out against the practices of the controversial Church of Scientology, based on the book by Lawrence Wright.

Is it any good? The on-going story of Scientology is assembled with customary efficiency by experienced documentarian Alex Gibney, mapping out its origins, rise to prominence and growing wealth in easily accessible fashion. But the problem here is that it's kinda preaching to the converted. If you are already skeptical about Scientology, then you wont really be surprised by the allegations of tax evasion, intimidation, human trafficking and corruption. Conversely if you're on the bridge to Total Freedom, you'll not be surprised by the claims of the disaffected former members, who you will dismiss as liars and suppressive persons (SPs). "Scientologists lie", says one contributor at one point. So, can we believe anyone in this?

That said, beyond the self-help aspect it may provide, it seems clear there are some deeply dubious goings-on in the organisation, embodied by the disturbing figure of David Miscavige at its head - what on Earth (or any other planet) makes him tick? We also get to see rare footage of L. Ron Hubbard himself, waffling about Dianetics, as well as some alarming clips of various bombastic Scientology events featuring earnest, fist-pumping appearances by Tom Cruise, none of which is likely to convince you Scientology is anything less than a madhouse. Nonetheless, it's unavoidably one-sided (Scientology refused the offer to contribute) and without clearly defined, irrefutable and damaging evidence of criminal activity within the organisation, it could be (and has been) dismissed as unsubstantiated tittle-tattle and sour grapes from self-confessed liars. Whilst it is still fascinating, it feels like the underbaked efforts of a lowly Operating Thetan rather than a masterly interrogatory audit by galactic warlord Xenu.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Three guesses who didn't like it? Yes, as is their MO, the Church of Scientology defended by attacking, hiring lawyers to prevent distribution, launching websites defaming the contributors, targeting film reviewers (gulp!) and generally kicking up a bit of a fuss. All of which naturally promoted the film more than ever, making it the second most watched documentary in the US ever. In the UK, some legal loopholes meant Sky Atlantic were forced to push back their screening by 6 months, again raising the anticipation and drawing healthy viewing figures when it finally did screen earlier this month. Here's an article about it, but it was written by John Sweeney, who some may remember from his run-in with Scientology as part of a Panorama investigation, so can he be trusted, hmmmm?

Anything else I should know? Yes, plenty, but you will have to pay me for that. Send me a million, no, wait, make that a billion dollars and I will release the top-secret information from the rest of my review.

What does the Fonz think? Strangely, the Fonz retracted his comment, mumbling something about audits and blackmail, or something. So I approached Tom Cruise for his opinion.

What does Tom Cruise think? *Giggles maniacally* Watch your back, man, watch your back! *Whoops and hollers before bounding away cackling*

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