Cynics were already taking shots at director/star Kevin Costner's film
'The Postman' as it was in production and dubbed it 'Dirtworld', mocking it
in reference to Costner's terrible and empty 1995 film 'Waterworld' about
the Earth consumed by melting glaciers eventually flooding most of the
planet. That film was very unusual, especially showing the characters with
soiled clothes and faces in a world full of water? In reality, 'The
Postman' is a rich and diversely entertaining film with a thunderous
frontier charge reminiscent of Costner's Oscar-winning 'Dances With Wolves'
from 1990. Can comparisons be made to 'Dances With Wolves' and 'Waterworld'
when describing 'The Postman'? Yes. In fairness, 'The Postman' should be
judged on its own merit and it has plenty of it.
Based on the award winning science fiction novel by David Brin, 'The
Postman' takes places in the year 2013 when the combination of a deadly
plague and war have ravaged and
destroyed the fabric of the United States turning the clock back a couple of
centuries to the days of the pioneers.
Costner is a lone drifter traveling with his mule named Bill and the
two of them stop at small towns and perform humourous antics for the folks
of the community. At one
encounter, Costner meets General Bethlehem (Will Patton), a brutal and
Hitler-like leader who even likes to paint like Hitler did and has taken it
upon himself to be the new leader of the former United States and has an
army of goons who follow him dressed in militia-like outfits for the purpose
of inflicting brutality.
General Bethlehem demands all men between the ages of 15 and 50 be
turned over to him for the purpose of indoctrination into his army and
Costner is a reluctant subject taken in a prisoner-like manner and
eventually escapes and makes his way to another community. Before doing so
he finds an abandoned U.S. postal service truck lost in the forest where the
skeleton of a postman still in uniform remains and a bag of mail is in his
possession. Costner takes the uniform and mail to the new community where
he begins to build hope for the future and re-establishes the mail service
and the days and historical references of the Pony Express are invoked.
Costner meets a beautiful young woman (Olivia Williams) who along with
her husband asks him to father their child since her husband is infertile
after he contracts a virus. Costner finally agrees after some very friendly
persuasion. He also builds a loyal army of men and women who agree to be
postal carriers to face and abolish the naked aggression of General Bethlehem.
I was overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery of 'The Postman' as it uses
the landscape of U.S. states such as Arizona and Oregon in its filming. The
characters are well developed and the emotion is brought through in
Costner's ability to use an old fashioned subject and present it from a
different angle in a convincing and powerful manner.
The film's climax is tastefully presented as things are resolved with a
restrained amount of bloodshed for a film about war and a conclusion for
which many critics are
accusing Costner of taking an ego trip. Just because a director chooses to
tell a story with himself in the lead, doesn't mean he's on an ego trip. No
one complained when
Costner did it in 'Dances With Wolves' and people have rarely accused Clint
Eastwood of the same practice although he directs himself as the hero time
and time again.
At a running time of 2 hours and 57 minutes, 'The Postman' is an epic
story of hope, renewal and is a pure visual presentation of conflict in
which a hero is built in
a most unusual fashion both convincingly and in a way that makes you feel
good when you leave the theatre.
Copyright © 1997 Walter Frith