Director: David Foley
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford, Marcia Gay Harden, Bruce Altman
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: R21 (Sexual Content)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://www.fiftyshadesmovieintl.com/index.php
Opening Day: 8 February 2018
Synopsis: Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Freed, the climactic chapter based on the worldwide bestselling “Fifty Shades” phenomenon. Bringing to a shocking conclusion events set in motion in 2015 and 2017’s blockbuster films that grossed almost $950 million globally, the film arrives for Valentine’s Day 2018.Believing they have left behind shadowy figures from their past, newlyweds Christian and Ana fully embrace an inextricable connection and shared life of luxury. But just as she steps into her role as Mrs. Grey and he relaxes into an unfamiliar stability, new threats could jeopardize their happy ending before it even begins.
You’d probably be able to find more than 50 reasons to criticise the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy, but then again, why even bother if you intend to catch this final chapter of E.L. James’s erotic romance series?
True to its title, returning director James Foley (who shot this back-to-back with the earlier instalment ‘Fifty Shades Darker) and screenwriter Niall Leonard have approached this sequel completely unshackled from the bounds of critical opinion. This one is for the fans, for the ones who have followed Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) through their on-off-and-on relationship, and for the ones who simply want to see them have that happily-ever-after which James smartly and duly accorded his readers at the close of the third book.
No wonder then that their backstory in the first two movies is found right at the end of this movie, but in case anyone needs a refresher, Anastasia had accepted Christian’s marriage proposal after his near-death experience hatched by her vengeful former boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). So appropriately, the opening credits chronicle their wedding ceremony as well as their subsequent jet-setting honeymoon in Paris and Cote d’Azur, culminating in one of the more sexually titillating sequences involving a yellow bikini and two pairs of handcuffs. Notwithstanding, Christian decides to cut short their holiday when he is informed by building security that someone had broken into his company and detonated an explosive device in the server room – and to no surprise, Anastasia recognizes from the CCTV footage that the person is none other than Jack himself.
As much as the whole kerfuffle with Jack inserts a heretofore unseen element of danger, ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is still very much about Christian and Anastasia’s evolving romance. Whereas the earlier films were about their struggle between domination and submission, this one sees them navigate much more conventional territory as they get used to life as husband-and-wife – whether is it fighting over whether Anastasia should retain her maiden name at work, or thinking about if and when to have kids, or even seeing one’s close friends a lot less often than before. While Anastasia still very much lives in a fantasy of luxury cars, private jets and overseas holiday homes that most of us can only dream about, it is somewhat heartening to see her and Christian wrestling with the type of issues that us mortal newly married couples grapple with.
Even if you haven’t read the book, it’s not difficult to guess that their seemingly trivial disagreements will eventually boil over, but find their resolution when Jack makes a dramatic return to threaten their lives. Truth be told, the whole thriller subplot is rather laughable, given how Jack manages to evade Christian’s three-man security detail (played by Max Martini, Brant Daugherty and Kirsten Alter) to break into his apartment but come up with some hare-brained kidnapping ploy that Anastasia manages to outsmart in the blink of an eye. At least then the build-up remains bearably convincing, illustrating how couples tend to get back at each other in self-destructive ways or revert to their individualistic past selves that only further undermine the fundamental basis of trust that binds any and every marriage. Oh yes, beneath its (ahem) skin-deep pleasures, there are relatable lessons one can draw from Christian and Anastasia’s marriage dynamics, which makes for an unexpectedly riveting watch.
As in its predecessors, Johnson is very much the emotional centre of the whole film, perfectly balancing strength, vulnerability and resilience in her performance. Dornan may appear a lot less expressive but there is no doubting the rapport, even chemistry, between him and Johnson that’s been built up over the course of three movies – and it shows in the many physically intimate scenes that they share. Although the story belongs to them and them alone, it is nonetheless lamentable that none of the other supporting characters and consequently their actors matter much, so much so that even the likes of Marcia Gay Harden and Jennifer Ehle have little to do.
But like we alluded to at the start, such gripes are likely inconsequential to fans of the series, who will certainly be pleased that this adaptation remains faithful to the book. They are also the reason why ‘Freed’ seems unfettered from the demands of critics (who, if they haven’t fallen in love with ‘Grey’ by now, probably aren’t going to) or cynical viewers (who take pleasure in scoffing and sniggering at the proceedings). Much as we didn’t love it as much as the fans probably do, we don’t think it deserves some of the vitriol that’s been thrown at it. This is through and through a modern-day wish-fulfilment fantasy romance (how many of us can even smell wealth like Christian’s?), with some occasional skin and S&M thrown in for good measure – and if that’s your poison, well then go ahead and fall under its spell.
(You should know by now what you're in for - romance, sex, and domination/ submission - and if you free yourself to enjoy it on its terms, you'll find this a satisfying climax)
Review by Gabriel Chong