Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

What can you really expect from a movie that is about a group of people that you already know going in are litigious, predatory jerks who shield themselves from the law and government itself by spending vast quantities of ill-gotten gains to protect their status as a church? When this is the known information about the Scientologists, where is there to go? Do they mistreat their members? Yes, it has already been well-documented that they do. Are they essentially a corporation that goes out of its way to persecute people who speak ill of them? Who didn't know that by now?

In this documentary, then, we get a lot of the same stuff that has already been out there, but there is at least an attempt to convey an understanding of how people are indoctrinated. The issue with it is that it is also the exact same story that has been told many, many times about other cults. Really, that's the issue I have with this movie - a documentary is supposed to try to break new ground or see the issue from a different perspective, but this just doesn't. Instead, it tell the same story that has already been told, but it changes a few names to make it interesting. Unfortunately, it doesn't make it interesting enough.

From beginning to end, the story about the power-mad leaders and their desire to get wealth and power is not at all surprising or even all that noteworthy. There are snippets that are interesting facts - like that L. Ron Hubbard probably bought into his own BS later in life and may have sincerely thought that this religion was true, but that may just be what happens when you repeat a lie enough times and try to convince other people of it. The movie glosses over a lot of the things that might have been more interesting like the actual hit pieces that Scientology does and the way it deals with outcasts, but that seems to just be a passing mention compared to the rest of the movie.

Perhaps the fact that this focused on Scientology is because the producers knew it would be a magnet for attention, and that would mean more viewers and more money. This would have been a better film if it had not limited itself to that one system and instead had covered how indoctrination happens and why it's so hard to break free from it. Scientology might have been covered, but it would be more of a psychological examination that would fit with the secondary title of the "Prison of Belief."

Maybe I expected too much from it, and maybe I had already been exposed to too much about Scientology to be surprised by some of the things that were being done in its name, but this movie just left me wondering why they bothered making it and why I bothered watching.

Direction was okay
Story was generally cohesive
Production quality was good
Presentation was not compelling

Bottom Line: Trying to damn a cult by showing it is a cult doesn't actually persuade anyone.



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