Elizabeth Holmes’ documentary is one to make your blood boil

HBO’s newest documentary details the rise and fall of inventor Elizabeth Holmes. HBO described her as the “world’s youngest self-made billionaire, heralded as the next Steve Jobs,” in the description of the documentary released March of 2019. She founded Theranos, a now multi-billion dollar company based around her invention, the machine where it was supposed to run multiple tests on a single drop of blood, in 2003. Throughout the documentary, the director Alex Gibney informs the viewers about Holmes’ company, her personality, marketing tactics and doubts of workers in the company.

HBO walks the viewers from the start to finish of Elizabeth Holmes’ fraudulent career. The director pulls interviews from professors that Holmes had known at Stanford before she dropped out to start her company. Holmes claimed to revolutionize blood testing by taking a small amount — 50 milliliters — of blood from a finger prick, which would generate various data about that person’s health condition. This technique began her rise in the public eye as a powerful figure in modern science. Her prototype for the process, the Edison, has proven ineffective according to the interviews given by former Theranos employees. They stated that “the machine would stop during tests,” and many explained how Holmes’ was always vague about the project and gave no details about it. 2015 was the beginning of Theranos’ downfall because of misinformation about Holmes’ invention.

HBO does an incredible job of breaking down the logistics of the complex scientific concepts that they present. Los Angeles Times explains how Gibney “compresses a juicy, complicated story into a smooth, coherent retelling that occasionally glances at that story’s deeper implications.” They show 3D graphics of the failed Edison prototype while the ex-employees explain their experiences. The visuals of the film are very bright to enhance the scientific environment. Speaking of visuals, the producers of the film use a lot of close-ups of Holmes’ unblinking eyes. It was a creative choice to make the audience see the non-existent guilt in Holmes’ unflinching face.

Gibney does something very interesting with Holmes’ timeline. Rather than starting out with the typical “child-to-adult” structure, the film starts by showing the inventor at her prime, then breaking down her motives that would lead to her downfall. Gibney definitely takes a bias against Holmes’ with the many interviews provided against her, and the audience takes that away with them. Gibney used both interviews with the scammed investors former employees at Theranos and video tapings of the young inventor almost breaking character. Through these scenes, the film leaves an eerie feeling behind that Holmes isn’t the person she makes herself out to be.

After receiving 78 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.1 out of 10 on IMDb, The Inventor became a “must-watch documentary” according to the Newsday. Dan Jackson from Thrillist emphasizes that “Gibney’s film uses slick animation to dramatize the malfunctioning system of tubes, vials, and splattering blood. It’s simple but effective.” In her review, Emily Yoshida from Vulture also includes the comment, “all good illusionists know [how] to get their audiences so fixated on one thing that they’ll miss what they’re doing behind their backs.”

Whether you know all the significant details or nothing at all about Holmes’ Theranos scandal, Gibney takes you on a ride that leaves you with a mix of emotions about everything. Anger, confusion and even fear are the lasting emotions after watching all 2 hours worth of film. The documentary makes the audience forget that something so crazy and outrageous actually happened in real life and in current times. Gibney does an amazing job in executing the story of the biggest scam of the century.