Fourteen Hours

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"A new element in screen suspense"
  • Approved
  • 1951
  • 1 hr 31 min
  • 7.1  (2,897)

Fourteen Hours is a gripping drama film from 1951 directed by Henry Hathaway. The movie follows the events that unfold over a 14-hour period in New York City, with a man standing on the ledge of a building threatening to commit suicide. The film is a profound exploration of the human psyche, dealing with mental illness, societal pressures, and the human will to survive.

Richard Basehart plays the role of Robert Cosick, a young man who has reached the end of his tether and is now standing on the ledge of a Manhattan skyscraper, 15 stories above the ground. Cosick is on the brink of a catastrophic collapse due to his life's adversities, including a career failure, relationship troubles, and financial issues. It is revealed that he had been receiving psychiatric treatment but had stopped going.

As the police and emergency services set up their equipment to try and rescue him, the crowd on the street grows larger and starts to take on a life of its own. This situation leads to a host of reactions from people witnessing the event, ranging from empathy to indifference, anger to compassion. Amongst the crowd, there are several individuals whose paths intersect throughout the movie, and their individual stories and relationships are intertwined in some way.

Paul Douglas portrays tough talking NYPD cop, Charlie Dunnigan, who takes charge of the rescue mission, displaying a gritty determination that he asserts is his job. As he tries to persuade and negotiate with Cosick, he also manages to supply him with cigarettes and coffee, showing a caring side to his tough exterior.

Barbara Bel Geddes is one of two women with ties to Cosick, playing his former fiancé, Virginia, who arrives on the scene after hearing about the situation and fearing for Cosick's well-being. Her appearance leads to a touching conversation as she pleads with him to come back from the edge and reminds him of the good times they shared.

The other woman connected to Cosick is Ruth, a woman he had met on a train to New York, played by Debra Paget. They had shared a few hours of conversation, and upon parting, he gave Ruth his mother's business card, something he cherishes. From the time she realizes the identity of the jumper, Ruth stays on location to lend support, hoping to play a unique role in saving his life.

As the intense drama plays out, we get glimpses of Cosick's past, revealing a broken childhood and his challenges with schizophrenia. The tension is palpable as the narrative switches from the action taking place on the ledge to the crowd reactions below.

We witness the nuances of human nature as onlookers respond differently to the situation. These reactions range from the hostility of the building owner who is concerned with the property damage; to the desperation of a man on parole seeking fame or notoriety through Cosick's death; to the compassion of a taxi driver asking all his fares to pray for Cosick.

The film was shot entirely in New York City, making expert use of the numerous concrete-and-glass surroundings that the location offers. The cinematography captures the city's frenzied pace, with the high angle shots showing the expanse of the metropolis made to feel almost claustrophobic.

The movie's central idea is that the human psyche is fragile, and the complexities of the modern world can inflict unbearable pain on individuals, that can lead some to the brink of despair. It is through the actions of the building's window washer played by Frank Faylen, that we see selfless empathy at its best.

The ending of Fourteen Hours is an emotionally charged moment, with an outcome as uncertain as to how it began. But the finale does offer a moment of hope and redemption, where the audience is left with the palpable sense that survival is more than just physical endurance; it is also a deepening of the human experience.

In conclusion, Fourteen Hours is a poignant drama that explores the complexities of the human psyche and the struggles of living in a modern world. The film's performances are top-notch, allowing the audience to identify with the various characters as they try to come to terms with the situation at hand. The movie's message of hope and the power of the human spirit to endure hardships resonates even today, making it a classic that has stood the test of time.

Fourteen Hours
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 31 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.1  (2,897)