The casting of Edward Fox was a crucial decision because he was believable as the Jackal who effortlessly portrays himself as very thorough, cool, methodical, professional assassin who is never flustered. Yet he is also a ruthless cold blooded killer who has no problem disposing with anybody who appears to get in his way, might compromise his cover or is simply just in the wrong place at the wrong time - - - you see it's nothing personal! From the slimy forger right up to the French police officer at the end I counted five murders ( I'm presuming the old woman he karate chopped at the end was killed).
In addition he does not appear threatening nor intimidating to anybody, he just blends and does not draw attention to himself.This would explain why he is able to take people into is confidence. (unlike Bruce Willis who has assassin written all over his face in the 1997 version). The Jackal looks relaxed and classy as Caltrop, an irritated tourist as Duggan, a nervous limp wrist-ed school teacher from Denmark and a very tired WWW I cripple. All of them are believable characters which he plays during the film and none of them look like assassins.
The movie moves at a good pace and in all honesty defies it's two and half hour status, the atmosphere is created by the back ground noise of the environment not the music score and of course that changes from England, France and Italy which of course provides great cinematography throughout the movie.The support cast are also very good in their respective roles but particular praise has to go to the Jackals arch nemesis Lebel played by Michael Lonsdale ( who was Drax in the Bond Movie Moonraker) who despite some near misses and some gut wrenching setbacks eventually corners the Jackal. He is not fooled by a war veteran who appears to be a cripple.
This is an interesting point because what the movie does well is show how difficult it was for a lone assassin to elude various agencies and law enforcement authorities from interpol when the word is out to apprehend him. This would be particularly prevalent in post WWW II France and continental Europe where identity papers are compulsory and the power of the state far more intrusive than in other countries. Today with Email, cell phones, internet, satellite surveillance and CCTV cameras which are everywhere today it would make the work of the jackal that much harder to pull off.
The Jackal had a chance to bail out when the mission was compromised but decided to push on despite knowing that the odds were increasingly being stacked against him. ( In theory he did pull it off, if he had not been careless with his shot on DeGaulle, although he would not have got away). Lastly, the ending had a nice touch , the viewer did not know who the Jackal was, he was not Caltrop, the irate flat owner at the end, he certainly was not Duggan we knew that where did he come from? He was laid to rest in an unmarked paupers grave. A mystery for the viewer at the end!