The Lives of Others (R) - 2006 - Runtime: 137 minutes
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
I had always wanted to see this movie, but never found the time to check it out when it finally came out on DVD. The plot intrigued me and I'm always up for some Cold War-themed suspense movies. Luckily, this movie is as good as everyone says - the cast is perfect and the plot is full of suspense and romance. It's just a great movie that deserves more than one viewing.
The setting is 1984, East Berlin. An agent of the secret police, Wiesler, has been ordered to spy on Georg Dreyman, a playwright who is in full support of the communist state. But Wiesler discovers that his orders are not necessarily for security reasons and his bosses are abusing their power. It's a tangled web of power and greed and I got completely lost in it. The movie focuses on Wiesler's surveillance and it is through his perspective that the camera is focused, but we also get to see Dreyman's personal life and what he has lost in spite of his great success. Needless to say, there's a build up to the final chapter of the movie where Wiesler has to decide what to do - to follow orders or defy them in order to help a traitor to the state.
The acting, as I've said, is perfect! Ulrich Muhe plays his part wonderfully and it's too bad he passed away shortly after this movie because he is such a strong actor. I loved the rest of the cast, too and they play their parts so genuine. You connect with these people and their tragic lives. I've always found struggles of this nature (censorship, falsely accused, etc.) to be such a great source of suspense and lots of drama. To see how their lives unfold under such enormous pressure, it's astounding. And although I don't think the movie is based on any particular event, it's safe to assume that stuff like this happened all the time during the Cold War. It's a movie that I think will live on long after the Cold War is but a distant memory (it almost is - I certainly don't remember it, much less anyone thirty or under) but the fear of global terror is still very much real.
I highly recommend this one. Don't let the foreign label persuade you, it's a great story and even though it's about two and a half hours long, it flew by because of the performances and the pacing of the wonderfully plotted film!
Rating: Own It!