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The Postman

6.12 h 50 min1997X-Ray15
Kevin Costner stars in and directs this futuristic, post-apocalyptic film. In the year 2013, Earth has been ravaged by World War Three, its population fragmented into isolated communities. These groups are terrorised by General Bethlehem (Will Patton) and his army, until a wandering performer (Kevin Costner) appropriates the uniform of a postman, and is eagerly accepted into the community of Pi...
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Supporting actors
James RussoTom PettyPeggy LiptonRoberta MaxwellJoe SantosRon McLartyDaniel Von BargenScott BairstowGiovanni RibisiShawn HatosyLarenz Tate
Warner Bros.
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

2406 global ratings

  1. 74% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

M. W. StoneReviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 July 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Movie, Unjustly Panned
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Kevin Costner’s movie version of David Brin’s sf novel (or rather, mainly the first of its three sections) has had a decidedly bad press, but looking back from 2021 it is difficult to see why.

Set in a near-future America devastated by a nuclear/biological war, it follows the fortunes of an itinerant who wanders around the scattered townships which remain, in the hope of finding one to take him in. He doesn’t have much luck on that score, as most already have as many people as they can support, until he gets an unexpected break. He finds the remains of a US postman, with a bag of old mail some of which, providentially, is addressed to people in the next town at which he calls.
Costner secures admission by claiming to be a a real postman, working for a (fictionally) restored US government. He is met with some scepticism, especially by the local sheriff, but enough people believe him to encourage him to keep up the masquerade.

However, his hopes are quickly dashed by the arrival of the Bad Guys, a self-appointed militia group called Holnists, who roam around exacting tribute (and conscripts) from the townships They are led by one General Bethlehem, who does not appear in the book. The Holnists as a movement do, but there are important differences in the movie version. Bethlehem is decidedly racist, rejecting one draftee for being of Asian origin, and closely inspecting another for possible Black ancestry. His men even kill and eat Costner’s mule, because a cross-breed of horse and donkey has no place in the New Order. In the book, by contrast, we are explicitly told that their founder, Nathan Holn, was *not* a racist. Though Brin’s Holnists follow a “Might Is Right” philosophy, and practice a form of serfdom, this does not appear to be on racial lines.

This is my one real grumble about the film, which I feel overdoes it a bit, turning the Holnists into cardboard villains. Thus when Bethlehem rides into town, he immediately starts conscripting, without the slightest effort to find volunteers. Yet in this situation, he could probably get quite a few, given that most young men there may well have few job options other than unmechanised farm labour, ie a lifetime contemplating the south ends of northbound mules. Compared to that, service under Bethlehem might really not seem so bad Yet in the film the only character who expresses that view is shown as a dimwit, hardly above the level of the village idiot. Here I feel the movie “cheats” a little, passing over the motives of those who accepted the Holnist life. After all, Nathan Holn’s original followers must have had some reason for following him.

However, for me at least this nitpick is more than offset by the touching (and revealing) scene at the film show, where Bethlehem’s men indignantly reject Universal Soldier in favour of The Sound of Music. Clearly the Holnist rank and file – even willing ones who accept their life as the “least worst” of a rotten set of options – still pine for the happier and gentler things that they have lost, and would welcome an alternative if they saw one. Ib a way, they too are victims. This provides an explanation of their behaviour at the end of the film, where things that Costner has learned during his time with the Holnists will play a crucial part in enabling him to defeat Bethlehem.

But that’s in the future. More immediately, Costner escapes from the Holnists and hides out with his future wife, who eventually (and somewhat forcefully) persuades him to come back to town. On arrival, he finds that he has really started something. The young people of the townships are worshipping him as a hero and organising themselves into a postal service for the whole area. Indeed, it emerges later that he has admirers far beyond the immediate precincts, with others having set up a similar service for a “Restored Republic of California”. We are never told whether this republic really exists or is just a fiction similar to his own, but it hardly matters now. The movement is in full swing.

Needless to say, Bethlehem is not best pleased by any of this, and sees all too clearly the danger to him which the postmen present. He launches all out war, and as the casualties mount, Costner looks on in horror and attempts to call the whole thing off. But this ship has already sailed. His young “disciples” have the bit between their teeth and will not take no for an answer. Costner has made his bed and must lie in it, come what may.

And more does come. The enthusiasm of the young Postmen starts to captivate their elders, who also rally round. In one scene, reminiscent of a WW2 drama, the Sheriff of Pineview, who had once (correctly) dismissed the Postman as an obvious fraud, now defiantly shouts “Ride, Postman, ride!” as he and his fellow townsfolk are mown down by a Holnist firing squad. The fire is well and truly lit.

I have seen some criticism of the way the townsfolk are allegedly portrayed as “sheep” knuckling under to the Holnists until hero-boy comes along, John Wayne style, to set the example. To me though, all this indicates is that Costner has been lucky in his timing. Had he come on the scene ten years earlier, a populace still demoralised from the apocalypse would not have followed him. Ten years later, and he would not have led them to victory because someone else would already have done it. As it is, he has arrived at the critical point, where the townsfolk have recovered enough to take on the Holnists, but haven’t fully realised it yet. Costner is the trigger rather than the bomb.

All in all, I find it a great movie, and certainly far superior to the epidemic of disaster films with which we have been bombarded since, with their ice ages, earthquakes and of course asteroid and meteor impacts ad nauseam. Those who panned when it first came out might perhaps have been cautioned that ”You ain’t seen nuffin yet.” Like those who welcomed Henry VIII as a great relief after his father’s tyranny, little did they know what they had coming.
2 people found this helpful
Tara's T leavesReviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 January 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Another slice of tangerine, anyone?
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Post Apocolyptic is not my favourite film genre, but this film was quite a hoot and the lighter tone blended with the less palatable scenes made it enjoyable for those of us who have grown weary of dark, dreary films filled with depressingly gritty realism. This was a 4 star film for me (the full 5 stars being reserved for the masterful Dances With Wolves and Field of Dreams) but seeing as it received such a slating when it came out, by people who evidently wanted to take Kevin Kostner down, I shall award it the extra star.

Some days gold stars feel a bit like tangering slices; they don't cost much and you get quite a few segments in a single piece of fruit so you can afford to be generous when offering the plate around. It's also important to remember that It's A Wonderful Life failed at the box office on release, as did Bambi. I know, I know... hard to believe.
3 people found this helpful
Jareth SmithReviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 May 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
Much maligned, for the wrong reasons.
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Given the thrashing this received back in 1997, I was expecting the worst. It doesn't begin encouragingly, but then it develops into a thoughtful, unusual, and enjoyable film. It's much better than many modern blockbusters and Costner provides a unique performance. I went in expecting him to be moody like in Waterworld again, but instead his character is quirky.

The media gave it a critical mauling and it bombed at the box office, but it just seems to have been part of the anti-Costner movement of the time. Waterworld is also an enjoyable film, so I don't get what they're playing out. It needs a reappraisal as the Postman I found to be highly enjoyable.
9 people found this helpful
Dan ConnorReviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 January 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent film. Got an undeservedly bad rap!
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One of the best post apocalyptic movies i have ever seen!

Kevin Costner does an excellent job of Starring and directing in this movie. His character develops from a loner, who avoids whats left of civilization. To an inspiring leader. The post apocalyptic backdrop of Oregon is visually stunning. Rather than being all doom and gloom like other films in this genre. The Postman brings a message of hope. It focuses on rebuilding society and how people can make a difference to one another. How important community is.

Will Patton Makes an excellent and interesting bad guy. Chewing the scenery at every opportunity. James Newton Howard’s soundtrack adds great depth and emotion. Theres even a cameo appearance by Tom Petty as the mayor of Bridge City

I really can’t understand how that when released in 1997 it was panned by critics. The only thing i can think of is that they had something against Costner. The Hollywood paid critics were gunning for him at the time. I also think the film was way ahead of its time. This is a clever uplifting and thoughtful movie. Its a shame because i think the critical response put people off at the box office. Give this movie a chance and give it the credit it deserves. You won’t be disappointed!
4 people found this helpful
CJReviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 February 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
American Cheese
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I have always had this film in mind from when I first watched it years ago as a teenager. I remember loving it but only saw it once, maybe twice since the first time. I'm now in my thirties and having watched this again on Prime...crikey, this is some cheesy s**t. We're in different times now and the whole America is great, America is the land of the free and brave, the dream land is long gone. Unfortunately this film is chock full of it. I would still give it 6/10 as I like the basic story, it's just very, very cheesy and the plot also could have done with a little more work. I wouldn't pay for this film, although may be fun to waste some hours when free on Prime.
Mrsstellaemorton-smithReviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 October 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Futuristic, but topical
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I have seen, and enjoyed this film before. It is a good futuristic thriller, but in today's situation in the United States it is also extremely relevant. I love it's simple concept of the good guys and the bad guys, at the same time thinking it could happen today.
3 people found this helpful
PhilobedoeReviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 July 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Kevin Costner cult classic
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The film is a story in its own right and not a direct lift from the original book by David Brin.

The story is fantastic, well shot and a great apocalyptic romp about a man initially trying to survive and then who is thrust into an imaginary role that ends up connecting a country together

I’m biased because I love it, but take a chance on it and see for yourself
One person found this helpful
manfromearthReviewed in the United Kingdom on 07 September 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
It delivers
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I always enjoy a good post apocalypse film and this is a good little gem
What starts out as a con by Costner to get a free meal and place to sleep after escaping from will Paton's army of enforcement (he's made himself a general ) becomes so much more great film well worth a watch
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