Monday, April 1, 2019

Movie Review: "The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley" (2019)

Director: Alex Gibney
Year: 2019
Rating: TV-14
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

A look at the company Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes from her meteoric rise as a brand new entrepreneur and the youngest ever self-made billionaire in Silicon Valley to the company's eventual collapse and her criminal charges for fraud.

The Inventor movie HBO 2019 Elizabeth Holmes Theranos documentary Alex Gibney
"She is really revolutionary in the truest sense." (Image Source)
"Fake it until you make it" is a phrase that anyone trying to start a tech business or some kind of online platform knows and lives by. It involves putting forth an image of success even if/when you're struggling or failing. It means continually persevering even if you don't, or continually trying until you actually do succeed. Writer/director Alex Gibney, who has helmed documentaries like "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," "Taxi to the Dark Side," and "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," takes a look at Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes, who created the company when she was only 19 years old. Once thought to be the next big thing in Silicon Valley, Holmes became a self-made billionaire on the idea and promise of creating technology that would allow people to gain more control over their health and healthcare through cheap and easy blood tests that would only require a pinprick and small amount of capillary blood. It turns out, Holmes was not the great hope for inexpensive healthcare, she was merely a charming salesperson with a radiant smile, a deep voice, an overly paranoid attitude, and the ability to bullshit some of the most powerful men the world has ever known. She was the queen of "fake it 'til you make it."
The Inventor movie HBO 2019 Elizabeth Holmes Theranos documentary Edison machine
"The problem is, when you're developing the future, you don't know what the impact's going to be because no one's seen this before." (Image Source)
When online personalities, tech companies, and businesses lie about their successes, the people who get hurt the most are either themselves and their own pocketbooks, or a small number of private investors. When a company promises cheap and simple blood testing and claims that their equipment can do things it actually physically cannot do, the gamble does not just come in the form of dollars and cents, it comes in the form of people's lives. Such is the case with Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. Holmes may have started out with what was a noble idea, and she may have had honest intentions, but her lofty goals and plans were unachievable and never fell into the realm of scientific possibility. Her design may as well have been the equivalent of someone claiming they wanted to build floating houses in the sky where everyone also owns a pet unicorn. It's a nice thought, but it isn't pragmatic.

Despite literal science against her, Holmes managed to create a bold, innovative, revolutionary image for herself and her company, selling the grand idea of an "Edison" machine that would test small amounts of blood for hundreds of different medical issues to the upper echelon of political bigwigs and influential businessmen, amassing a valuation of over $9 billion. Alex Gibney looks at how Holmes, company president "Sunny" Balwani, and her company received endorsements from Fortune Magazine, the Clintons, and the Obama administration, how she enlisted a board of director including the likes of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former senators Sam Nunn and Bill Frist, United States Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, and Admiral Gary Roughead. She also received investments from the likes Rupert Murdoch, Betsy DeVos, and the Walton Family, who all lost hundreds of millions of dollars when it all came crashing down. Worst of all, Holmes sold a product that didn't actually work to Walgreens, meaning it was used on the public at large. Since the Edison machines couldn't do what they promised, people would often receive dangerously erroneous blood testing results of either false positives and false negatives.
The Inventor movie HBO 2019 Elizabeth Holmes Theranos
"We weren't supposed to say anything about Theranos." (Image Source)
"The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley" provides an enthralling portrait of a scandalous story that proves reality is sometimes much more interesting than fiction. We sat in awe watching how a wide-eyed, fake-husky-voiced twenty-something woman sold so many prominent people on a pipe dream, how she maintained this lie for more than a decade when it became clear it wasn't ever going to work, how she dismissed any naysayers who wouldn't kowtow and capitulate to her vision, how she assumed people with genuine concerns about her improperly made machines were spies and detractors and would crush them with the power of her monetary might that could pay for all the best resources to make sure everything remained "trade secrets," how she bullied former employees with litigation and private investigators, and once again for the people in the back, HOW SHE LITERALLY GAMBLED WITH PEOPLE'S LIVES FOR A PROFIT. This film presents a gripping exploration of self-delusion combined with the desire for success at all costs combined with the dangers of silencing critics. Alex Gibney presents the facts all without the help of Elizabeth Holmes, and as such, has still created a riveting and entertaining documentary we believe is absolutely worth checking out.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.1/10
RT Rating: ~75%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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