The Postman (film)

The Postman is a 1997 film adaptation of the award-winning post-apocalyptic themed novel of the same name, written in 1985 by author David Brin.

It was filmed in north-eastern Washington (Metaline Falls), central Oregon and Tucson, Arizona, and was directed by Kevin Costner, who also stars in the film. The film co-stars Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel Von Bargen, Tom Petty, Scott Bairstow, Roberta Maxwell and Mary Stuart Masterson.

Plot summary

The year is 2013, and war has crippled the earth. Into this apocalyptic wasteland comes an enigmatic and initially nameless drifter (Kevin Costner), with his mule named Bill and a talent for Shakespeare.

Fleeing a neofascist army run by General Bethlehem (Will Patton), Costner's character survives a cold night by hiding in a rusted-out mail truck that he literally stumbles onto. While taking refuge in the truck, the drifter takes the bag of undelivered mail (after reading some of the letters), puts on the dead owner's postal uniform, and "the Postman" is born. Arriving at one of the settlements scattered throughout Oregon called Pineview, Costner's character attempts to save his life by pretending to have official business; that is, by assuming the identity of a postman who has been appointed by what he falsely describes as a newly restored government. While some in the settlement are skeptical, the people seem generally to want to believe, and they proceed to give the Postman more mail to deliver. General Bethlehem eventually learns of this and considers it an act of treason. Bethlehem steps up his presence by searching and attacking nearby towns, killing those who are suspected associates of the Postman.

While the Postman and Abby (Olivia Williams), a woman pregnant with his baby, hide from General Bethlehem in the woods until she comes to term, he becomes an almost mythical symbol of hope. By spring, a young man named Ford Lincoln Mercury (Larenz Tate)—inspired by the Postman's example—has organized a postal service connecting the communities of the Pacific Northwest. At first the Postman is unwilling to engage the Holnists. Mercury and some of his men however takes it upon himself to kill several Holnists and deliver the bodies into the heart of their camp. This escalates into a running conflict with skirmishes on both sides. The Postman, despite not agreeing to the initial attack seeks counsel and wisdom from one of his oldest comrades who fought in the Vietnam War. He teaches him the rudiments of guerrilla warfare tactics and the Postman uses them to good effect. The tide of war seems to be turning against the Postman though, the Holnist army are proficient survivalists, many of which are hardened veterans. The mounting casualties dismay the Postman and he orders his meager forces to disperse, arguing that the price of victory would be too great. On the move and fleeing the Postman is harried to a small mountain enclave which is run by a person the Postman half-recognizes as a formerly famous person, Tom Petty, playing himself. Seemingly trapped between the enclaves, mountains, and General Bethlehem's scouts, the enclave leader helps the Postman. Taking him up to the highest point of the enclave where a gravity-driven cable car is installed which stretches all the way down to the valley below. Putting the uncertain Postman inside the Enclave leader releases the catch.

As he descends at break-neck speed down the valley the Postman realizes that he can make a difference and take on General Bethlehem. Using King Henry V's speech prior to the Battle of Agincourt as his rallying cry the Postman manages to reform his scattered troops. The Postman leads his army against General Bethlehem's army. Now his forces are more equal to the Holnists, but lack artillery. The Postman decides to take Bethehem on in single combat, thus invoking 'rule number 7' as he was once a Holnist. He defeats Bethlehem and is saved from being shot in the back by Bethlehem's former second-in-command.

The film concludes with a scene, which is set in the year 2043, in which the Postman's daughter (Mary Stuart Masterson) attends a tribute to her father's achievements. A statue of the Postman is unveiled, as speeches proclaim the historic role that he played in helping to restore a civil society once more.


Actor Role
Kevin Costner The Postman
Will Patton General Bethlehem
Larenz Tate Ford Lincoln Mercury
Olivia Williams Abby
James Russo Idaho
Daniel von Bargen Pineview Sheriff Briscoe
Tom Petty Bridge City Mayor (future version of himself)
Scott Bairstow Luke
Giovanni Ribisi Bandit 20
Roberta Maxwell Irene March
Joe Santos Colonel Getty
Ron McLarty Old George
Peggy Lipton Ellen March
Rex Linn Mercer
Shawn Hatosy Billy
Ryan Hurst Eddie March
Charles Esten Michael
Annie Costner Ponytail (as Anne Costner)
Ty O'Neal Drew
Ellen Geer Pineview Woman
Tom Bower Larry
Lily Costner Lily March
Joe Costner Letter Boy
Judy Herrera Carrier
Greg Serano California Carrier
Mary Stuart Masterson Hope, Postman's Daughter (uncredited)

Cast and crew information

On his personal website, author David Brin reveals that while the studios were bidding for The Postman, his wife decided during a screening of Field of Dreams that Kevin Costner should be "the one" to portray the hero of The Postman. Brin agreed that the emotions invoked 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 described himself as "thrilled" - more so when Costner's interpretation of the Postman's character was similar to Brin's. Costner threw out 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 the movie began filming, Brin expressed his hope that The Postman 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 generally negative reviews, faring only 10% on The New York Times gave a scathing review criticizing 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".

External links


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