Michael Caine did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.
Michael Caine plays cockney crook Croker who's just after being released from prison looks to find a new heist. He finds that in the form of the message of a dead man who gives him the plans on how to rip off an armored car in Italy. After some difficulty in convincing the powerful incarcerated mobster Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward) he heads the plan, with a fairly large team, to go through with the complicated plan while avoiding the Italian mafia who are very much opposed to it. This is not exactly the most complex part Michael has ever played as Charlie is just a carefree crook not at all like the ruthless crook he would play just two years later in Get Carter. Caine's performance is really just all about his charm. He's certainly likable enough in his happy go lucky manner as Croker goes about the early steps of the job, and even smiles his way through a beating at the hands of Mr. Bridger's men after he dared to interrupt his time in the bathroom.
Caine has some down moment of sorts when he's just going through the plan which he handles just fine I suppose. There are also the few moments where he interacts with the mafia boss. Caine is commanding enough in these scenes to deliver some intensity to the standoff and in turn deliver a bit gravity though this almost seems like a pointless effort since the mafia ends up factoring very little into the final conclusion of the film. Most of Caine's performance is strictly based around his charisma, and it is not like he even has really a comic presence here so to speak it's more lighthearted than anything else. Caine is charming here though in his usual slight smile Michael Caine sort of way. As charming Caine performances go I would not necessarily call it his best, as I found him more charming in The Man Who Would Be King just for one example, and that film also bothered to give him more to do than this film does.
The whole third act of the film barely features Caine actually in that the actors barely factor in when the film depicts the heist. It keeps everything really about the images associated with it and there really are not any character moments for most of the final act. Something finally does happen though in the film's literal cliffhanger ending. It's still pretty limited stuff though but Caine certainly delivers his "great idea" line quite enjoyably. It's a fun little moment to end things on and is rather fitting for his performance which is a fun little performance. Considering the film decides to limited Croker's as a character about as much as it can he still manages to to make something out of almost nothing in terms of material. Caine is entertaining with what he does have, and what he does do works for the film's breezy tone. This is a great distance from his best work as an actor though it is a decent enough showcase for his movie star sort of appeal.