This is a classic '2 antagonists sparring with each others' fate' thriller, where each holds the other over a barrel. Renfro, as the schoolboy who's a little TOO interested in the nasty, dirty secrets about the Nazi death camps that are too unpleasant to be taught in school is decent and just chilling enough to make you uncertain how sympathetic he is as a lead character. That tone is just right for a thriller where the other lead - and the easier 'monster' of the piece - is Ian McKellan's retired Nazi, hiding out under a new name in American suburbia until Renfro works out his secret.
From that moment on it's a tense drama that occasionally escalates into a thriller, as each wrestles for control over the other's life, struggling to get out of a warped relationship that's based on subjugation and humiliation.
The film throws in many unexpected developments, and you're never quite sure where the tale is going.
Renfro is occasionally clearly outclassed by McKellan's skill and experience, as McKellan takes scenes that appear to have pathos and then spins them into chills, and 'Usual Suspects' director Singer leaves us in no doubt that this is serious business, with the film almost completely lacking any kind of light relief.
Some moments are truly shocking - the almost mindless terror of a third party at one stage rings so true that it chills the blood and puts a great deal back into perspective - and the ending is very well handled.
Serious drama that unfolds with immense skill and little action - the fireworks and shocks are almost all in the character interplay, and they unfold superbly.