Sundance Film Review: ‘The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley’

Variety | 1/24/2019 | Amy Nicholson
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After things go really wrong in Alex Gibney’s documentary “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” one of his interview subjects jokes about developing a truth serum. Now there’s a million-dollar idea — maybe even a nine-billion-dollar idea. That was the astronomical valuation staked on a company called Theranos, founded by Silicon Valley darling Elizabeth Holmes, effectively making her the richest woman in the world. For tech startups, money like that is abstract, essentially fictitious. So, too, was Theranos’ Edison machine, a revolutionary diagnostic tool that promised to give patients a cheap way to test their blood for 200 diseases at their local drug store with just a finger-prick.

The Edison didn’t work. But that didn’t stop Holmes from reaping a fortune from investors — as well as the cover of Fortune magazine — because people wanted to believe. Especially in her. False belief, not phlebotomy, inspired Gibney’s blood-thirst to tell this story. Frauds and patsies are his life’s obsession, reflected in the director’s takedowns of everything from Scientology to Enron. Compared to those attack docs, “The Inventor” is more of a second-degree assault, scoring a few direct hits and a fair amount of whiffing at what proves to be a vaporous target.

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On paper, Holmes looks like a ripe subject for Gibney: She was the female hero of a dude-heavy industry, a lithe, green-juice chugging blonde invited onto every panel to make grand pronouncements about how Theranos would save lives. She would come out dressed in a black turtleneck uniform, a nod to Steve Jobs, her curiously deep voice making her sound like Yoda, whose iconic phrase she paints in foot-tall letters at her Stanford Research Park headquarters: “Do or do not, there is no try.” Filming this curious spectacle, Gibney zooms in...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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