Movies: The Spy Who Loved Spying

Treachery's afoot in a taut, terrific German thriller

Hagen Keller / Sony Pictures Classics

Sebastian Koch and Martina Gedeck in The Lives of Others.

A dictator falls, a country is set free and in the inevitable spasm of liberation, some folks get wistful about the bad old days. It happened in Yugoslavia and to an extent in Iraq, and it broke out like a sweet fever among East Germans after the Wall came down in 1989. They called it Ostalgie--Eastalgia--and in 2003 it suffused the hit film Good Bye, Lenin! But for the imposingly named writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Ostalgie is a sickness in need of treatment. His urgent, exceptional first feature, The Lives of Others, is the ideal antidote. It has richly earned its...

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