“Come on! Do I look brainwashed to you?”
There’s not much I can say about this film that hasn’t been said before by better critics than I. Theroux’s big screen debut, an exploration of the cult known as scientology, offers insights and reinforces the general nastiness that has long been associated with the group. It really isn’t as good as Alex Gibney’s documentary from last year – Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Theroux’s documentary is nowhere near as substantial or haunting, but it isn’t trying to be. Although of the same topic Theroux’s intent differs largely from Gibney – Theroux seemingly wanted to create a documentary that looked at the positives the reaction from the group simply and ironically reinforced their negative image, continuously and extensively.
We constantly witness Theroux’s attempts at contact being rebuffed which does something different to Gibney’s film. Whereas Gibney provides us with an investigation, a breakdown of the organisation, Theroux manages, however inadvertently, to give a sense of the dark underlying elements that prevail within the group. There are some chuckle-worthy moments, moments where Theroux really manages to out-Theroux himself, along with many incredulous strange occurrences and a large helping of his wry wit.
However, the film doesn’t quite succeed as much as the viewer will want it to. Although it should be lauded for it’s unexpected angle on its topic the film doesn’t provide much illumination. Just as Theroux remains on the outside of the perimeter, looking on through the barbed wire, we too remain outside looking in. We get to laugh at the ludicrous minions but we are deprived of bearing witness to the metaphorical car crash that would have occurred if Theroux had actually meet the intended subject. Expect entertainment not enlightenment and you’ll enjoy it all the more.
Dir: John Dower
Country: UK Year: 2016 Run time:98 minutes
Cast: Louis Theroux