A 1997movie based ona book by David Brin, about a wanderer in post-apocalyptic Oregon who ends up disguising himself as a US Postman and weaving an intricate story about the US government being reformed in order to con people out of food and shelter. He rapidly progresses from merely pretending to deliver the mail to actually delivering the mail, and with the help of a young man he meets early on in his travels, ends up recreating the postal service he claimed to represent. In the process he raises the ire of the Holnists, a cult of survivalists who have recently moved in and rule the area as feudal overlords, and the Postman and his new followers quickly find himself embroiled in a war. It was not a very successful movie, tanking at the box office, derailing Kevin Costner's career and winning several Razzie Awards, but it has been looked on much more favorably in recent years.Not to be title-confused with Il Postino (1994), another movie named "The Postman" from the 1990's.
Includes examples of the following tropes:
0% Approval Rating: General Bethlehem's followers apparently hate him every bit as much as the townsfolk they oppress. Not a single one of them seems unhappy to see him gone after the one racist redneck killed early on.
Adaptational Wimp: Holnists are barely organised, but well-armed mob - nothing like ultra-survivalist Always Chaotic Evil original from books. Even their evilness is considerably toned down.
Californian Carrier: Name's Clark. Postal Carrier of the restored Republic of California. Who are you?
Ford: Postmaster Ford Lincoln Mercury.
Californian Carrier (takes off his cap, shake hands): It's an honor, Sir.
Bethlehem: Wait a minute... wait a minute! You don't know each other? This will never be over. It'll go on except I'll be fighting a goddamn ghost.
Ascended Extra: Abby in the book shows up only in the first section and even in that part her role is rather small.
Badass Army: The Holnists are basically an evil, repressive, violent, destructive mob of bandits, but they're extremely well-organized and well-equipped, especially compared to the militias of the disorganized villages they extort. While one town in particular has 'five guns and twenty rounds of ammunition for the entire town', and this is implied to be a typical situation in Oregon, the Holnists have enough AR-15s to equip their entire army and a seemingly infinite amount of 5.56 ammo, in addition to machine guns, anti-aircraft cannons and at least one battery of howitzers.
Badass Bookworm: General Bethlehem. He then subverts it by having the books he's done with burned.
Becoming the Mask: The premise of the movie is basically "Man pretends to be a postman for the fictional Restored United States of America to con people out of food and shelter, in the process ends up accidentally creating the Restored United States of America and becoming a postman for it."
Blatant Lies: All of Shakespeare's lies about the reformed United States government go unquestioned despite how obviously evasive and unconvincing he is.
No one questions that the new President of the United States has the same real name as Ringo Starr.
Also possibly justified since his real name isn't as well known in the US, and would be even less so fifteen years After the End.
Possibly justified by the fact that it's not that he's convincing, but that people just want to believe in these things that badly. Plus he almost gets shot when he starts his lies, but by the time he gets going he's delivering mail from "the next village over", making his position much more plausible.
Also inverted: We know from early in the film that Ford has personally recruited many, if not all, of the mail couriers in Oregon. Near the end of the film, he is stood up next to another mail carrier who he's never seen before in his life. The other mail carrier is from the Restored Republic of California, and this serves as The Reveal that Bethleham's army isn't advancing into Oregon, it's retreating from California.
Child Soldiers: Most of the Postman's courier-crew-turned-militia is pretty young. Justified in that life expectancy in a Post Apocalyptic world would be comparable to Real Life pre-Industrial eras, so relative age categories are adjusted accordingly ("late teens" becomes "young adult fit to fight").
Compressed Adaptation: The movie left out quite a bit of the plot of the book, particularly the augments and pretty much the entire conflict between the towns loyal to the Reunited States of America and the Holnists.
Pragmatic Adaptation: It also left out things like Reunited-aligned soldiers secretly raping the corpses of their own female soldiers to further demonize the Holnists when the bodies were discovered.
Cruel Mercy: General Bethlehem gets this at one point. Almost.
Death by Adaptation: Poor Michael. In the book he was very much alive and well by the end. Of course, he only appeared in the book briefly-as did Abby.
Developing Doomed Characters: The first hour involves a group of characters conscripted to join the Holinists, most of which are dead by one hour in and long forgotten by the end of the film. There isn't even a "Postman" until after this - a full hour in.
A Father to His Men: General Bethlehem thinks he's one of these. Amusingly, it's fairly clear almost every one of his men hates him to the core but none of them want to stand up to him (assuming the other people in the army are loyal Holnists). He was just savvy enough to scare everyone into strict submission during their "conscription".
We're shown that many are forcibly conscripted (including the Postman) so it's not that surprising if most aren't there by choice and hate Bethlehem. Also probably explains their poor Evil Army showing above.
General Bethlehem is interrogating the sheriff of Pineview to learn where Shakespeare went; the sheriff tells him he went East (which is a lie), after which the general sends a search party east...and then sends three more west, north, and south, just in case the sheriff is lying.
"They better find him east."
The sheriff himself. He instantly deduced that Shakespeare is a fraud who is using an old uniform to pose as a postman. He is also savvy enough to keep it to himself, so his community's morale won't fall.
The events which brought the world to this are varied and unexplained, with events like "the war", "the rains" and "the bad mumps".note The "bad mumps" is nothing more than having them as an adult, when they are almost lethal and often render males infertile, just like in case of Abby's husband.
In the opening sequence, the old news reports playing in the background have what is clearly missiles going off. A nuclear exchange can therefore be inferred to have happened, which explains the "three-year (i.e. nuclear) winter" and why no one goes near major cities (likely destroyed and irradiated).
Paranoia Gambit: In a stare-down with Bethlehem, the Postman claims the U.S. Government has moved into the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and has sent reinforcements.
Plot Armor: The Postman and Ford have a peculiar immunity to the Holnists' bullets.
In case of the Postman, it's played with-when he saves Abby, he takes a bullet in the process. For the next half a year he stays with her in cabin, recovering from his wound, marking the point when Romantic Plot Tumor becomes a real issue.
Bethlehem: Wait a minute...you two don't know each other?!
Separated by a Common Language: Sort of-while the term "postman" is sometimes used in the United States, the more common word is "mailman". But "The Mailman" sounds dopey as the title to a dramatic film.
Take That, Critics!: After his performance, "Shakespeare" is mocked by an amateur critic who, of course, turns out to be both an idiot and a failed artist, and is told that he doesn't have the right to say anything bad anyway since he didn't pay to see Costner perform.
Wham Line: When Ford and another captured mail carrier are about to be executed:
Ford: Who are you?
Carrier: Name's Clark. Postal Carrier of the restored Republic of California. Who are you?
You Have Failed Me: General Bethlehem does it to one member of a conscript batch, to scare the rest into total, strict obedience. It's lampshaded to be his standard procedure, as there is always one chair less than men to sit on them, so there will be always one man to be executed for not following order to sit.