Going Clear is the definitive piece on the Church of Scientology. Running chronologically through events, we begin with the conception – by American science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, to the rise in popularity during the 1980s, through to the present day, with David Miscagive now at the helm of proceedings. In that time Scientology has been officially recognised as a religion and has attracted Hollywood stars such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise. However, and through the words of former members who have since left the Church, such as director Paul Haggis, Mike Rinder, Marty Rathburn and Spanky Taylor – they reveal the lesser publicised, darker side – where accusations of both physical and psychological abuse is prevalent, while they also explain about the repercussions faced when attempting to leave.
Gibney misses nothing out, as an extensive piece that covers all bases. The plethora of talking head interviews works well, mostly because of those the director has gained access to. Here are people who weren’t just associated to the Church, but they were heavily involved, and in some cases, in positions of high power. So to speak out so openly about their experiences and their regrets takes a great deal of bravery, as some of them admit to being ashamed of their former selves. As you feel that they’re reluctant to speak out initially, it provides more magnitude to theirs words. Meanwhile, the fact that Hollywood plays such a huge role in Scientology, not only as a base for the Church, but given the celebrities associated to the movement, this feature lends itself perfectly to big screen viewing, working well on the silver screen as it feels so closely tied in with this whole world. Though this film certainly won’t be doing any favours to the career of Cruise – who comes across in a rather negative light to say the least.
Going Clear is an expose. You struggle to see how there can be a way back for Scientology after this production, it feels that monumental. It’s devastating, it’s sinister and it’s breathtaking. It’s hard to believe in parts, but all too easy in others. At one point Haggis claims that “Scientologists take their enemies seriously” – and it seems they may have just gained a new one in Gibney. But to get the truth out there in such emphatic fashion is a risk that is simply worth taking.