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Movie Review

The Postman

Reviewed by: Steve Hanson

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
205 min.
Year of Release:

Starring: Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, Tom Petty / Director: Kevin Costner / Released by: Warner Bros.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

This movie opens in a post war, northwestern area of the United States. The few survivors are perishing for a lack of vision, lack of government, lack of culture and lack of postal service?

Enter Kevin Costner, “the Postman.”

Costner, a vagabond Shakespearean actor conscripted into a small madman’s army escapes from the megalomaniac General Bethleham (Will Patton) and in fleeing takes refuge in a wrecked mail carrier’s jeep. The mailman is still in the jeep, a mere skeleton of himself, and Costner being cold and wet takes the carrier’s uniform to keep warm.

Later, finding a small village, he uses the uniform to impersonate a real “postman” to get food. The village folks are astounded that the mail is now back in service and find hope in this. They subsequently send Costner out to continue rebuilding the Restored U.S. government’s lines of communication.

While in the village, Costner is propositioned by a beautiful woman Abby (Olivia Williams) who wants Costner to impregnate her so that she and her husband can have children. The husband is a willing partner to this as he had the mumps and is now sterile and unable to father a child. Costner is the prime candidate for “body father” as he is a stranger who is going to leave anyway and never had the mumps. He thinks about it a short time (very short) and is then seduced by the woman and leaves town to begin rebuilding the postal service.

Of course this rebuilding of the old government is opposed by the new power, General Bethleham, and a struggle ensues pitting Costner and the new “postal service” against the Clan of “8”s, the General’s army, to see who will control what little is left of society.

I read this book 20 or 25 years ago and enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t like the movie. If you too read the book you will barely recognize the movie.

This movie is the third in Costner’s line of movies dealing with the survival of a culture after cataclysmic events. “Dances With Wolves”, the plains Indians being driven out of their homeland by the environmentally challenged whites; “Waterworld”, where some men have mutated into part man, part fish (who says evolution isn’t true?) and now “The Postman”.

The most powerful impression I brought out of this movie was the total lack of representation God or faith in any form. Other than one scene where some townspeople say a prayer before they let an impatient Costner eat, there is nothing to do with faith, God, or anything related. It is man alone in a desperate effort to survive against other men.

However, never to fear, Costner gives us the solution. Hand to hand combat to the death between the Postman and the General to settle all disputes and leadership of the “clan.” Is this barbaric feudalism really the future Hollywood and the humanists see for us? Without God, it is all they can see!

This movie contains one scene with very explicit sex and some violence (although not the goriest by any means). The plot is very predictable and slow for all the struggle represented in it. To me, the message of this movie is very clear (although not Costner’s desired message)… without God, men will always and only trade one tyrant for another.

Viewer Comments
This film was BORING. I had recently read the book and expected much more than what the movie depicted, as far as storyline. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad if kept to a two-hour or so time frame, but everything was so drawn out. And the bit about the kid (complete with slow motion) with the letter was a bit sappy—and only got worse later in the movie (I don’t want to give anything away to those still willing to see the movie!). The kid being showcased, incidentally, is Costner’s son. I preferred “Waterworld”!!
—Leigh Dawson, age 38
DO NOT READ THIS MESSAGE IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW DETAILS OF THE MOVIE: Well, I will not say this is the most entertaining movie and it would be real easy to know which parts to leave out (one hours worth), but… I would like to correct that they do not send Costner to rebuild the postal service. They want that but he never makes a commitment because he is a lazy, self indulgent, man who has no reason to fight for anything, including delivering the mail. It isn’t Costner who rebuilds the delivery of mail, but a young man who needs a vision. The young people have grown up without ever knowing what a postal service was. Belief that the US government is alive and kicking (even though that is a lie) gives them courage to rebel against the general. Believing that Costner is responsible for this “postal service,” the general wants to kill him and stop the rebelling against his rules. Since he doesn’t find Costner, he kills the young horseback riders. Costner tries to put an end to the movement but the young people enjoy having meaning in their lives. The husband of the woman Costner impregnates, gets killed and they develop a relationship without sex. In the end, they are a family. When Costner finally decides to take the generals challenge it is so that all the people who have put confidence in him won’t have to fight and die. In that scene, he realizes what he does have to fight for and that is America. They don’t kill each other either. Now, this is not God and I guess to some extent they are likening the delivery of mail to the government, and therefore America. This ending was not barbaric (although earlier parts are); Braveheart was barbaric. I wanted to give specifics because I think your reviewer left important parts out. Thank you, and I am a postal clerk.
—Patricia, age 48
I have to say, I really enjoyed the film. The sex scene was a bit much, but it was a very encouraging and hopeful movie. I did not think of it as “Waterworld” part II.
—Christa Kari
Kevin Costner must have the best job on the planet. He makes zillions, he has complete control over his productions, and can manage to have himself in the middle of almost every scene! In spite of his overpowering messiah complex (why is he always saving the world?), he finally successfully remade Waterworld! We enjoyed this movie, in spite of what the critics led us to believe and in spite of the fact that it was low on real content. There are a lot of other things that you can do with three hours that would add more value to humanity… No's: There is an objectionable obligatory sex scene in which the female anatomy is briefly exposed that could have easily done without the nudity (or the whole scene, for that matter!). There are also a number of shots with ample blood and exploding bullets. Nominal swearing. Absolutely no spiritual content. Yes'es: The photography and scenery may be the most compelling of any movie since DWW. Kevin is great at composing those dramatic long shots! The characters are slightly one-dimensional, but what you do see, you can’t help but like. I particularly liked the fact that his heroine was strong, self-possessed and intelligent. Olivia Williams was wonderful as Abbey. She is naturally beautiful, but not your typical ultra-beautiful Hollywood babe! It has the best script since “Dances With Wolves” and entertains through the long running time. Kevin should have been a little more disciplined in the cutting room since there was at least 30 minutes of unnecessary film presented here that had no real bearing on the story or the characters, These scenes could have been represented in a 30 second slow-mo and still told the story.
—Michael Chapman, age 47