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Review: The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

Alex Gibney HBO 'The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley' TV Show Panel, TCA Winter Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA - 08 Feb 2019 (Photo: David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock)

By Valerie Milano

Elizabeth Holmes and her infamous biotech startup Theranos

Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/17/19 – The career arc of Elizabeth Holmes is a fascinating study in ambition. Shrewd, corrupt, and brilliantly intelligent, Holmes is known for a new “invention” that promised to entirely revolutionize blood testing. Through her company, Theranos, Holmes became the globe’s youngest self-made billionaire.

But within two years, the charade was dismantled and her company in tatters.  Director Alex Gibney was fascinated by the story, and through a new HBO documentary, tackles the topic with his own extraordinary ambition.

(Feb. 7, 2019 – Source: Getty Images North America)

The film originally premiered at Sundance. Gibney, for his part, is no stranger to related topics. In addition to his exploration of Holmes’ impressively massive medical fraud, the Oscar winning director has produced documentaries on abuses of power in Enron, Wikileaks, and oh yes—The Church of Scientology.

Holmes, it turns out, was an Ivy League dropout with big ideas. She did seem, however to understand how to play the game. She dressed to imitate Steve Jobs, and it worked. Investors were knocking down her door at the chance to invest in her fraudulent blood testing endeavor.

A still from The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley (Photo: Sundance Institute | Drew Kelly)
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So how does a woman wind up gaining enough traction to become a billionaire before anyone manages to think twice about what she’s actually doing? That was her genius. Gibney breaks it down with a shrewdness equal to her own.

The doc could be compared to a trainwreck: it’s impossible to look away. And by the time Holmes declares, without flinching, that she “doesn’t really have any secrets,” viewers will find themselves deeply entrenched in her story, and strangely invested in her impossible vision.

Holmes is the very definition of the phrase “fake it till you make it.” The fact that she took it far enough to become criminal doesn’t really diminish her ferocious sense of ambition. Nobody, it turns out, really disputes the fact that she had a legitimate dream, and idea. Holmes had peddled the notion of people being able to give themselves their own blood tests in any setting. That, ideally, would mean people would catch diseases long before they might have otherwise, and maybe even save their own lives.

Alex GibneyTyler SchultzJohn CarreyrouErika Cheung 2019 Sundance Film Festival (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images North America)

The problem is, she wasn’t really willing to put in the time to make it happen in any legitimate sense. She instead indulged in a large scale charade, courting powerful personalities and creating a powerful persona for herself.

Holmes is dangerous in a way we can’t really put a finger on. That’s the irresistible pull of Gibney’s doc.

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley will be available to stream on Monday. Learn more about this remarkable piece at https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/the-inventor-out-for-blood-in-silicon-valley/about