Though Kutuzov's fortunes and reputation went up and down throughout his career and especially during the Napoleonic wars, it's clear that he became a national hero to the Russians. In 1812, first when he rallies the troops before the battle of Borodino, and later, when the French are decisively driven out of Russia, one can see—at least in Tolstoy's portrayal—the emotional connection he has with the army and the ordinary people.
In the midst of the eventually victorious campaign, Kutuzov puts forth the message that cruelty and vindictiveness are not what should be carried out, but still, regarding the French, he rhetorically asks, "Well, who asked them to come here in the first place?" It is ironic and sobering that Kutuzov died, largely of exhaustion, only a few months after the 1812 campaign was over.
Czar Alexander I's opinion of Kutuzov was not always high. As Tolstoy portrays the situation, in 1805 before the battle of Austerlitz Kutuzov realized that the overall Austrian-Russian planning was chaotic, and his own recommendations were overruled. He slept through the meeting in which the exact plan of battle was being ostentatiously read aloud. When Napoleon then won his massive victory over the combined Austrians and Russians, the finger was pointed at Kutuzov and he was demoted. But seven years later he redeemed himself when the French invaded Russia, because Kutuzov kept the army intact to fight another day even after taking huge losses at Borodino. The French were driven out within months and their armies were decimated. It was Kutuzov's visceral connection with the Russian people, and his personal patriotism and spiritual connection with the motherland, Tolstoy indicates, that enabled this victory.