This blog is about as far behind the curve as it can get, so I suppose I shouldn't be too embarrassed to heartily endorse a movie everyone's already seen. Regarding all those great reviews you've seen for The Lives of Others, let me just say this: Me too.
I pushed it up to the top of the Netflix queue after both my son and my mother-in-law recommended it within a couple of days of each other. I appreciate such advice, since the rest of my queue generally consists of movies I've already seen.
This film, about life under perpetual surveillance in pre-Glasnost East Germany, works as both a sober character study and political thriller. That's probably why it earned the Oscar for best foreign-language film in 2006. While maybe 15 minutes too long, the superb writing and cast (if not unknown, let's just say there's nobody who's been in a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel) make The Lives of Others worth more than a single viewing.
There was a time when I wouldn't have watched a non-English film; now I sometimes feel that I shouldn't watch anything but. Movies made outside the American studio system are nearly always more authentic, meaning much less susceptible to focus-group twists and endings. I'd prefer all films to be in English, of course, but the subtitles are a small price to pay for watching something without gratuitous CGI effects and stars you're sick of seeing on the cover of Us magazine.