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Soundtrack review: The postman (James Newton Howard – 1997)

JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: The postman (James Newton Howard – 1997)

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I am one of the few people who actually enjoyed the post apocalyptic movie “The postman”. Kevin Costner second and (I am being gentle) less successful attempt at producing, directing and starring in a movie was an interesting experience for me for some reason and I saw it four or five times. James Newton Howard wrote the score and this time the critics were silenced…

“The postman” is a score constructed in the Hans Zimmer 90s way: a few very long tracks. Except the main titles we get an average of almost 7 minutes per cue. The themes have time to form and develop. The movie is three hours long and the music burns the same way. This is a story about a lonely drifter in a post apocalyptic world and you can almost feel the dust in your throat when you listen to the score. Then it gets all heroic and there aren’t many scores where James Newton Howard gets heroic (Wyatt Earp is the other one that comes to mind).

“The postman” is a composition to get lost in. To me, it’s the equivalent in JNH’s career of “Crimson tide”: it takes a while to love it, you don’t know right away why you get so addicted to it but you find yourself unable to stop it or get out from under its spell. There are moments when this score gets sweeping and emotional and other times when it’s all about the atmosphere it sets. “The postman” is melodic and sensitive even in its moments of revolt. James Newton Howard does epic rarely, but when he does it is memorable. There are parts in “General Bethlehem” and “Abby comes calling” that give me goose bumps. “The restored United States” is a magnificent and epic action cue that you will never forget. Each of these long themes is a journey in itself and each listener might get something different from it.

For me, “The postman” is the most special James Newton Howard score of the 1990s. It is a sound to which he didn’t return very often and this makes this score even more precious. This is James Newton Howard at his most James Horner like moment. Heroic, beautiful and emotional “The postman” will be a rewarding listen for anyone.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 41 / 50

Album excellence: 82%

Highlights:

The Belly of the Beast

General Bethlehem

Abby Comes Calling

The Restored United States

The Postman

Tags:
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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1 Comments

  1. Eliava 2nd March 2017

    I am not a Costner fan by any stretch of the imagination. But I love this film. I also love the soundtrack. I do have a question about it that perhaps you can help me with. Track 7 “The Postman,” at 7m12s, one of the major themes begins. Howard sampled it from a piece of classical music; I think it might have something to do with Abraham Lincoln. Do you know which piece he sampled that theme from?

    Reply

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