Only the framework of Horton Foote’s  novel (but little of his  play, which preceded it) has been utilized by Lillian Hellman in her screenplay. The original plot centered on an escaped convict seeking revenge on the sheriff who had sent him up but Hellman makes them only two of the many characters with which she has populated her sociologically sick Texas town.
Through introduction of various other types she manages to provide most of the social grievances which trouble the world today.
Robert Redford, as the escaped convict whose impending return to his hometown gives many of its citizens the jitters, gives the film’s best performance. Marlon Brando, in the comparatively small but important role of the sheriff, has obviously given much time and study to the part, but such detailed preparation as a carefully-delivered Texas accent means little when other cast members read their lines with a mixture of regional accents.
Jane Fonda, as Redford’s wife and the mistress of wealthy oilman James Fox, makes the most of the biggest female role.