The Postman (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kevin Costner|
by David Brin
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Peter Boyle|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$17.6 million|
The Postman is a 1997 American epic western post-apocalyptic adventure film. It is directed by, produced by, and stars Kevin Costner, with the screenplay written by Eric Roth and Brian Helgeland, based on David Brin's 1985 book of the same name. The film also features Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, and Tom Petty.
It is set in a post-apocalyptic and neo-Western version of the United States in the then near-future year of 2013, sixteen-plus years after unspecified apocalyptic events, starting with the breakdown of society through “hate crimes and racially motivated attacks (by) a militia-like group” led by Nathan Holn, progressing to war, followed by plagues, that collectively left a huge impact on human civilization and erased most technology. Like the book, the film follows the story of a nomadic drifter (Costner) who stumbles across the uniform of an old United States Postal Service mail carrier, and unwittingly inspires hope through an empty promise of a "Restored United States of America."
In 2013, an unnamed nomad enters the Oregon flatlands, trading Shakespearean performances for food and water. In one of the towns, the nomad is forced into the ranks of the predominant militia in the area, known as the Holnists and run by General Bethlehem. When he escapes, the nomad takes refuge in a dead postman's mail vehicle.
With the postman's uniform and mail bag, he arrives in Pineview claiming to be from the newly restored US government. He convinces town sheriff Briscoe by showing a letter addressed to elderly villager Irene March. The Postman inspires a teenager named Ford Lincoln Mercury and swears him into the postal service. The Postman also meets spouses Abby and Michael, fulfilling their clinical request to impregnate her. When the Postman leaves for the town of Benning, he carries a pile of mail left at the post office door by the townspeople.
During a raid of Pineview, General Bethlehem learns of the Postman’s tales of a restored government and becomes afraid of losing power if word spreads. He burns the American flag and post office, kills Michael, kidnaps Abby, and next attacks the town of Benning. The Postman surrenders, but Abby saves him from execution, and the two escape into the surrounding mountains. A pregnant Abby and an injured Postman ride out the winter in an abandoned cabin.
When spring arrives, they cross the range and run into a girl, who claims to be a postal carrier. She reveals that Ford Lincoln Mercury organized a postal service based on the Postman's story. They have established communications with other settlements, creating a quasi-society and inadvertently spreading hope.
Bethlehem is still fighting to suppress the postal carriers, who are mostly teenagers pitted against a better-equipped enemy. In the face of mounting casualties, the Postman orders everyone to disband and writes a surrender letter to Bethlehem. However, Bethlehem learns to his dismay that the Postman's example has spread farther than he could have anticipated when his men capture a carrier from California, and redoubles his efforts to find the Postman. The Postman, Abby, closely followed by young carriers Eddie, Ponytail and Billy, travel to Bridge City. When Bethlehem's scouts catch up, the mayor, (possibly) Tom Petty (“I know you, you’re famous”) helps the Postman to escape on a cable car to find volunteers for an army of carriers.
In a recitation of King Henry V's speech prior to the Siege of Harfleur, the Postman rallies himself and his troops to war. The mounted Carriers and Holnists meet across a field. Knowing the casualties will be great if the armies meet in battle, the Postman instead challenges Bethlehem for leadership, with their troops as witnesses. The Postman wins the fight with inspiration from the "Neither snow nor rain" inscription, then offers Bethlehem a chance to build a new, peaceful world. Bethlehem lunges to shoot the Postman but is shot by Colonel Getty, Bethlehem‘s ranking officer. Getty surrenders, and the rest of the Holnists follow.
Thirty years later, the Postman's grown daughter speaks at a ceremony unveiling a statue in tribute to her father, who has recently died (1973–2043). The modern clothing and technology show that the Postman's actions have helped rebuild a civilized society.
- Kevin Costner as The Postman
- Will Patton as Bethlehem
- Larenz Tate as Ford
- Olivia Williams as Abby
- James Russo as Idaho
- Daniel von Bargen as Sheriff Briscoe
- Tom Petty as Bridge City Mayor
- Scott Bairstow as Luke
- Giovanni Ribisi as Bandit #20
- Roberta Maxwell as Irene March
- Joe Santos as Getty
- Ron McLarty as Old George
- Peggy Lipton as Ellen March
- Brian Anthony Wilson as Woody
- Todd Allen as Gibbs
- Rex Linn as Mercer
- Shawn Hatosy as Billy
- Ryan Hurst as Eddie
- Charles Esten as Michael
- Anne Costner as Ponytail
Costner’s first three children (the fourth was a newborn during production) appear in the film. Eldest child Anne features prominently as the young ponytailed female letter carrier. Second born Lily very briefly appears as the daughter of Peggy Lipton’s character. Third born Joe appears on two occasions as the young boy holding up a letter for the Postman to grab from horseback.
Mary Stuart Masterson appears, uncredited, as Hope, the grown daughter of Abby and the Postman, giving the opening and closing narration.
Three of the musicians credited in the onscreen Pineview Band – Jono Manson, John Coinman and Blair Forward – were “playing” their own compositions, as they are also credited as songwriters and performers in the music section and on the soundtrack album.
|The Postman (Music from the Motion Picture)|
|Film score by James Newton Howard|
|Released||December 23, 1997|
|Label||Warner Sunset/Warner Bros.|
|1.||"Main Titles"||James Newton Howard||2:13|
|2.||"Shelter in the Storm"||James Newton Howard||6:23|
|3.||"The Belly of the Beast"||James Newton Howard||6:49|
|4.||"General Bethlehem"||James Newton Howard||6:55|
|5.||"Abby Comes Calling"||James Newton Howard||10:50|
|6.||"The Restored United States"||James Newton Howard||6:44|
|7.||"The Postman"||James Newton Howard||9:50|
|8.||"Almost Home"||Jono Manson||Jono Manson||3:59|
|9.||"It Will Happen Naturally"||Maria Machado and Jono Manson||Jono Manson||2:18|
|10.||"The Next Big Thing"||Jono Manson, Joe Flood and Jeffrey Barr||Jono Manson||2:19|
|11.||"This Perfect World"||John Coinman and Glenn Burke||John Coinman||3:38|
|12.||"Once This Was The Promise Land"||John Coinman||John Coinman||2:06|
|13.||"I Miss My Radio"||John Coinman and Blair Forward||John Coinman||2:42|
|14.||"Come and Get Your Love"||Lolly Vegas||John Coinman||3:07|
|15.||"You Didn't Have to Be So Nice"||John Sebastian and Steve Boone||Amy Grant and Kevin Costner||3:39|
On his personal website, author David Brin reveals that while studios were bidding for The Postman, his wife decided during a screening of Field of Dreams that Kevin Costner should portray The Postman. Brin agreed that the emotions evoked by Field of Dreams matched the message he intended to deliver with his novel. A decade later, after learning Costner would be cast as the lead, Brin said he was "thrilled". Costner discarded the old screenplay (in which the moral message of the novel had been reversed) and hired screenwriter Brian Helgeland; Brin says the two of them "rescued the 'soul' of the central character" and reverted the story's message back to one of hope.
In an interview with Metro before filming began, Brin expressed his hope that The Postman would have the "pro-community feel" of Field of Dreams instead of the Mad Max feel of Costner's other post-apocalyptic film Waterworld. Brin said that, unlike typical post-apocalyptic movies that satisfy "little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in a world without rules", the intended moral of The Postman is that "if we lost our civilization, we'd all come to realize how much we missed it, and would realize what a miracle it is simply to get your mail every day."
The Postman received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics.
Stephan Holden of The New York Times criticized the movie for its "bogus sentimentality" and "mawkish jingoism". Roger Ebert described The Postman as "good-hearted" yet "goofy... and pretentious". However, Ebert recognized the movie as a failed parable, for which he said the viewers "shouldn't blame them for trying". On Siskel & Ebert, Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film "two thumbs down", with Siskel calling it "Dances with Myself" (in reference to Costner's Oscar-winning film Dances with Wolves) while referring to the bronze statue scene.
According to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 3 out of 34 film critics gave the film a positive review, with a "Rotten" score of 9% and an average rating of 3.8/10. Metacritic gives the film a score of 29 out of 100 based on 14 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
The film was a notable failure at the box office. The first four days after opening brought in only $5.3 million on 2,207 screens. Produced on an estimated $80 million budget, it returned less than $18 million.
Awards and nominations
|Saturn Award||Best Science Fiction Film||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Will Patton||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Kevin Costner||Nominated|
|Razzie Award||Worst Actor||Won|
|Worst Picture||Kevin Costner, Steve Tisch, and Jim Wilson||Won|
|Worst Screenplay||Eric Roth and Brian Helgeland, based on the book by David Brin||Won|
|Worst Original Song||The entire song selection||Won|
- "THE POSTMAN (15)". Warner Bros. British Board of Film Classification. January 16, 1998. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
- The Postman at Box Office Mojo
- Brin, David (December 1998). "The Postman: the Movie". Worlds of David Brin. DavidBrin.com. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
- Stentz, Zack (June 12, 1997), "Brin on science fiction, society and Kevin Costner", Metro, retrieved August 3, 2007
- Holden, Stephen (December 24, 1997). "Movie Review: The Postman – Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Descent to Anarchy..." The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2007.
- Ebert, Roger (December 25, 1997). "The Postman". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 3, 2007.
- "Week of December 27, 1997" (1997). Television: Siskel & Ebert. Burbank: Buena Vista Television.
- "The Postman (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
- "The Postman Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
- "'Titanic's' Voyage Is Steaming Ahead". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
- "The Postman (1997)". Box Office Mojo. January 23, 1998. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
- Parish, James Robert (2006), Fiasco – A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops, Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 359 pages, ISBN 978-0-471-69159-4
- Turner, Barnard Edward (2005), Cultural Tropes of the Contemporary American West, Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen, pp. 267 pages, ISBN 0-7734-6219-8
- The Postman on IMDb
- The Postman at Box Office Mojo
- The Postman at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Postman at Metacritic
| Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
18th Golden Raspberry Awards
An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn