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The Postman Movie Review

costner film kevin bethlehem

1997 – Kevin Costner –

The Postman doesn't always deliver, but it often maintains a level of interest in both its uncertain first half and its more unified finale. Set in the parched, post-apocalyptic world of 2013, the film features Kevin Costner as an unnamed character who trudges through the wasteland with his mule Bill. Stopping at small communities, he recites speeches from Shakespeare as best as he can remember them in this world without libraries. A tyrannical, self-proclaimed general named Bethlehem (Will Patton) conscripts Costner for his army, but after a humiliating introduction to these fascist ways, Costner escapes and comes upon an abandoned mail truck. Although he seems to take the cap and the contents of the mailbag initially as a way of further dignifying himself, when he soon makes his way to a nearby fort to deliver some letters, he begins to see that these scattered gatherings of despairing survivors take heart from the link with distant friends and loved ones that even a primitive mail route provides. He also finds a gift for instilling hope as one of the young men, Ford Lincoln Mercury (Larenz Tate), recruits others to add to the network of routes started by Costner the postman. Eventually, Costner accepts the role of inspiring and leading these people into challenging the domination of Bethlehem and creating a renewed country.

The first hour meanders in an episodic mix that establishes the nature of this setting, dramatizes Costner's drifting and reciting, indulges in the action of kidnap and escape, and finally starts up a love story. The last hour of the film is more assured, as director Costner focuses on events leading to the showdown between the postman and Bethlehem. Though this part is more coherent, many scenes continue past their dramatic peak. As a director, Costner over-relies on closeups and further drains some scenes of their interest.

Is a mailman really the stuff of which epics are made? The film's inability to make up its mind about how often to acknowledge the built-in humor of the situation gives its first hour or so some off-key moments. You are never quite sure if you are laughing at the things the film wants you to. The characters marvel at the postman's mangled Shakespeare, taking for profundity what could just as well be parody, and later when the postman spots a misspelling in a handbill, the hush of awed reverence among the onlookers creates another bit of comic confusion. The movie seems almost to assume that the lack of basic schooling in this post-millennial world has made some of its characters (including, at times, the postman) not just illiterate but unintelligent. Overlong and under-directed, The Postman struggles to effectively address the viewer.

Cast: Kevin Costner (The Postman), Will Patton (Bethlehem), Larenz Tate (Ford Lincoln Mercury), Olivia Williams (Abby), James Russo (Idaho), Daniel von Bargen (Sheriff Briscoe), Tom Petty (Bridge City Mayor), Scott Bairstow (Luke), Giovanni Ribisi (Bandit 20), Roberta Maxwell (Irene March), Joe Santos (Getty), Ron McLarty (Old George), Peggy Lipton (Ellen March), Brian Anthony Wilson (Woody), Todd Allen (Gibbs), Rex Linn (Mercer), Shawn Wayne Hatosy (Billy), Ryan Hurst (Eddie), Charles Esten (Michael), Annie Costner (Ponytail), Mary Stuart Masterson (postman's daughter) Screenwriter: Eric Roth, Brian Helgeland Cinematographer: Stephen F. Windon Composer: James Newton Howard Producer: Kevin Costner for Warner Bros. MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 177 minutes Format: VHS, LV, DVD Budget: $80M Box Office: $17.6M.

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