Ebert’s review observes that the excellent recent remake of the movie adheres closely to the novel, which Ebert clearly admires. Clive Sinclair, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, reminds us that Portis’ story of a 14-year-old girl’s vengeance is a Vietnam novel, a tale of 1968. The film makes an interesting double feature with Apocalypse Now, and the book is not out of place beside “Heart Of Darkness.” Conrad was interested in evil, and in the contrast between London businessman and the jungle; Portis accepts evil, like discomfort, as a bothersome burden that a sensible person should oppose when possible, just as one ought to dispatch a rattlesnake if you have a sharp hoe ready to hand.
Portis’ judgment of the war is sound and subtly argued: Rooster Cogburn has fought in wars before, and will go on to fight in wars again. He is a good man. He has true grit. And he has always, always, found himself fighting to the bitter end for the wrong army.