Brody, finally getting to strut his stuff after a series of lesser roles and frustrating career developments, gives a finely nuanced performance. We are tied almost relentlessly to his POV -- it's jarring when he's absent from one or two crucial scenes late in the film.
Yet, quite deliberately, we get only a sketchy sense of Szpilman as an individual. He starts out shallow, a lightweight; by the time circumstances force depth upon him, he has been reduced by necessity to a simple survival machine. There is nothing heroic about either his actions or his character. The only thing that distinguishes him from the ghosts of his family and neighbors is that he survives. And that is less a function of some special inner strength or tenaciousness than of sheer circumstance.