Directed by Kevin Costner
War and disease have ravaged the planet. A drifter wanders the countryside occasionally scamming but when one of his scams to get some food and shelter goes too far, he finds himself on a collision course with a psychotic warlord in a series of events that will affect civilization.
I really love this post-apocalyptic western. The Postman is about hope in dark times. It is about how the desire for freedom and a better life can bring us together to fight the bad things. And the film is patriotic which has been a bit of a rarity in Hollywood for a long time. In the end the characters are not trying to build another country in this movie. They are trying to resurrect the old one that they remember and dare I say that they love. It is about the idea of America and how it is a good thing.
General Bethlehem (Will Patton) is fighting for land and control. He represents all things authoritarian and bad. Those that join the re-formed Postal Service (which started out as a scam) are fighting for an idea of freedom and running on hope. They have had nothing promising in their lives for so very long that the idea and what it promises is worth fighting and dying for.
I did not at first realize that The Postman (Kevin Costner) is never given a proper name. He is never called “Steve” or “Joe” or “Bob” or anything else. This helps to give him an everyman feel and allows for the viewer to better identify with him. It is not a common creative choice but always one that I applaud when attempted. It is hard to do a whole movie and one of the main characters never gets named. That takes creativity. While I am not sure about the contents of the book on which this is based, even directors with a readymade source get lazy.
The Postman himself is disillusioned and perhaps a bit hopeless. He is old enough to remember the world as it once was and has trouble handling it as it currently is. I think that is something we can all identify with at times.
One of my favorite celebrity cameos of any movie is in this film. Tom Petty shows up as an implied future version of himself who is the mayor of a place called Bridge City. He is never explicitly called “Tom Petty,” and the Postman recognizes him and says how he (Tom Petty) is famous. It is also that moment that serves to drive home that the Postman has become an important figure of hope to the despairing people because Tom Petty replies that the Postman is famous.
The Postman begins his personal change when he meets up with Abby (Olivia Williams). The postwar diseases have left some men sterile and it is not uncommon for them to have men who were unaffected by the epidemic father their children.
The Postman does so but more because he is looking for a good time than to be a helpful person. But after the death of her husband at the hands of General Bethlehem he realizes that there is another life he will have to care for in this world and it is no longer just about him.
Being a Western it is about two larger than life rivals facing off in an ever-escalating battle of wills and ideas. Bethlehem is the western badman with the Postman being the lawman who must stop him. You even get a cavalry scene at the end with the forces of freedom and the forces of oppression facing off in one final conflict.
This is a great work of science fiction that for some reason gets smack talked about. I am not saying it is perfect and it does have some stuff that could be removed but it is a good movie. It is a different kind of Western with great and important themes that I recommend checking out and going into with an open mind.