Edward Fox did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Jackal in The Day of the Jackal.
Edward Fox portrays the titular assassin who is the villainous lead of the film. One of the reasons The Day of the Jackal is so unique and effective of a thriller is the almost day to day way it shows in how the Jackal goes about his task. Edward Fox contributes this in his performance that takes a decidedly non flamboyant approach in portraying the assassin. Assassins commonly in film are portrayed in sort of a larger than life fashion, which can be fine if it works in context with the film, but Fox interestingly plays the Jackal as a very down to earth man. Fox goes for an intensely realistic performance as the Jackal.
We follow closely the plan of the Jackal as he sets up everything he needs to to be able to proceed with his plan, as well as every little hurdle that comes up due to the efforts of the government. Fox is amazing in his creation of the the Jackal who we know almost nothing of. He makes him a man of few words and few emotions as he goes about his task. In the way he is so matter of fact in his method he shows that this really is not anything special for him he is a career assassin and the casual manner he takes if very effective in showing this. Fox is brilliant in the way he makes something like planning of the killing of a world leader something so casual, but Fox is able to do it in a wholly believable fashion.
Edward Fox is excellent in portraying the far too great intelligence within The Jackal as he moves about doing what he has to do to achieve his goal. It is fascinating the way Fox plays the Jackal as basically a soulless man, but this is not a one note performance because he shows almost everything else is a put upon facade. It is incredible the way Fox portrays the ease in which the Jackal is able to through on one facade to the next. It is amazing the way he so believably switches from accents to even manners like when he pretends to be a world weary soldier. He even shows the Jackal having the ability to click on a charm when necessary that is so effectively used by Fox as it makes just basically a switch for him to becoming a charming.
Fox is just incredible the way he is able to create this man who has such skills, which he does in such a natural fashion despite it being something that is entirely unnatural technically speaking. There is such an efficiency in the way he portrays the Jackal that makes him an imposing force, and is able to create the dire feeling that he will succeed despite the fact that the person he is planning on killing definitely was not killed. Fox makes The Jackal a man who never seems to stop or hesitate even for a moment as he goes about his plan of action, Fox gets across so well the flow of this man's sinister intelligence that always makes him at least few steps past the government agencies who attempt to capture and stop him.
Something that really is difficult in many thrillers of this sort is that either the villain or the heroes make foolish mistakes along the way. This film though is incredibly good though in showing that both forces are working at the very top of their game. Fox contributes to this greatly with his performance as the Jackal who we never doubt for a second in his abilities. He makes the Jackal the master assassin he should be and honestly succeeds in creating the threat that he should be to make the film work. There never seems to be luck in play here or anything else that is just by chance for the Jackal, he earns all his successes and Fox is brilliant in the way he fully realizes this.
The most chilling moments of his performance though are whenever he clears all facades off his face and just goes about his job in the purest fashion which is killing people. Fox is fantastic the way his face changes to that cold brutality. One scene in particular is especially disturbing where he is acting very casual with a man like a normal person, but a message on the television alerts the man that the Jackal is wanted by the police. The way Fox shows his demeanor change on the dime to the calculated murderer makes the scene especially chilling. Every one of these scenes are particularly effective due to the cold almost lifeless manner he takes when committing murder.
This is a great performance by Edward Fox and he succeeds in his portrayal of the Jackal which could have easily gone wrong so many ways. The Jackal could have easily been over the top in his style that would not have fit the character, or he could have been one note considering the soulless nature of the role. Fox though finds just the right tone for the Jackal making him a compelling character to follow through the film, and manages to make a fascinating depiction of this assassin. Fox's performance is a true accomplishment in making such a unique reality driven characterization of the type of character that is often portrayed in the exact opposite fashion.