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Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief on HBO

It’s pretty awesome, and it will be interesting to see if this has any effect on Tom Cruise’s career come this summer, with the big July release of “Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation”. My initial guess…it won’t impact him at all. Cruise has survived a lot of flack, and even though the audience for this HBO documentary was reportedly the cable network’s largest for such a feature in over a decade–it may not be enough to carve into his multiplex box office. And after seeing “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”, my love/hate relationship with Mr. Cruise continues. I find him to be an underrated actor, an incredibly effective movie star–but also a complete freaking wacko. Is he an “evil” man, as the feature suggests? I don’t know. Has he made some very curious choices and decisions regarding his “faith”? It certainly seems like it. But I LOVED last year’s “Edge of Tomorrow”, and I’m very much looking forward, to “Mission 5” this summer. Yeah…Cruise is a loon. But I’ll continue to separate the man from the film legend, until it’s no longer possible. If that day ever comes. Need further explanation? See Woody Allen and Roman Polanski.

So, this movie mostly nails its source material in Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief”. Maybe even enhances it in certain ways. Obviously, seeing clips and interviews with some of the principles involved, is a more sensational effect than simply reading about it. Of course, the page format allows much more minute detail than a movie could ever provide. But creator Alex Gibney nuances the film perfectly, with a compelling background look at Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the first half, along with an expose of the “church’s” most famous members in the second. There’s “escaped” former member Paul Haggis (a two-time Oscar winner for 2005’s “Crash”), and somewhat lukewarm current (and long-time) member, John Travolta. You’ll also hear former adherents tell about the horrendous abuses and contradictory nature of the “religion”. It’s a cracker jack documentary that chronicles the current state of the Scientology movement, as well as the recent decades of rumored corruption and violence. David Miscavige runs the “cult” now, and he seems like a nut job–and a slew of interviewees seem to confirm that. But Cruise is the “star”, the biggest name, and possibly the one with the most to lose. This film may not sink his stardom, but his inclusion should peak your interest. Man, this is great stuff.

Grade:  A

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2 comments on “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief on HBO

  1. I saw it on HBO VOD and although I always knew Scientology was more cult than tried and true religion, it still freaked me out. L Ron Hubbard was just a mad as JIm Jones. I liked how the film started with more background on Hubbard, to give us a better idea what type of mind could create this..um..”religion”.

    Cruise comes off as a nut job. I had also read that while filming Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick’s daughter went off to join Scientology upsetting her father deeply. I do wonder if Cruise had any influence.

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