Coming to theatres and OnDemand from director Michael Polish, Vertical and Redbox is the story of a woman who stands trial for being an AMERICAN TRAITOR: The Trial of Axis Sally.
It is World War II and American Mildred Gillars (Meadow Williams) is living in Germany with the love of her life Max Koischwitz (Carsten Norgaard). It is not long before she is brought to Joseph Goebbels (Thomas Kretschmann) who makes it clear that if she wants things to stay safe for her, she will do radio broadcasts exactly as the script says. The program consists of Mildred singing swing songs and propaganda written by Goebbels.
Soon after the war she is arrested and brought to stand trial in the United States for being the traitor known as Axis Sally. Representing her is James Laughlin (Al Pacino) who has an unusual way of doing things and brings Billy Owen (Swen Temmel) on board to help with Mildred.
On the other side of the courtroom is John Kelly (Mitch Pileggi) who is making sure in his opening statement that everyone realizes why she is standing trial. Bringing out both verbal barrels, Kelly paints an ugly picture of a woman who turned on her country and the soldiers she used during her broadcasts.
While in her cell, Billy tries to get her to talk about what happened to her in Germany and when she finally does, it becomes clear that not everything has been told. Laughlin is going to have to work fast so that the truth will come out or else Mildred will be hanged for treason!
Pacino as Laughin gets a chance to put on his quirk in the form of a lawyer who does not do things exactly as expected. From the moment he meets Mildred until the end, he tries to see all that is possible and how to keep his client alive. Pacino does quirk well and gives fire when he wants your attention.
Williams as Gillars puts on a very stern face and is not exactly a warm person. She had a sharp and cutting wit knowing that there is no way the U.S. is going to listen to her story, not after being labeled ‘Axis Sally’ for so long. Trust is not easily given, and Williams puts up the toughest wall ever.
Temmel as Owen is a young lawyer who believes he has what it takes to work with Laughlin but does not exactly know what to expect. Working with Laughlin will be an experience and Temmel gives his character the reactions of a straightforward man of the law. Norgaard as Koischwitz is in the same boat as Mildred in that he has to find a way to keep them together and alive doing things and seeing things he can hardly bear.
Kretschmann as Goebbels is vicious, evil and diabolical in the way he thinks and what he does to keep his radio program popular with both Germans and Americans. There is a heavy price to pay for trying to go against him. Pileggi as Kelly is not about to let this case get away and wants justice for everyone by making Mildred take the full brunt of it.
Other cast include Lala Kent as Elva and Drew Taylor as Randy.
Vertical Entertainment is a global independent distributor that offers a unique wealth of experience minus the studio costs. They have won a Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress for Molly Shannon’s role in OTHER PEOPLE and the film won a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Film Limited Release, Best International Film for Babak Anvari’s UNDER THE SHADOW, a BAFTA and three Independent British Independent film Awards as well.
AMERICAN TRAITOR: The Trial of Axis Sally is based on the book Axis Sally Confidential by William E. Owen. Mildred Gillars traveled the world, married and widowed until landing in Germany and becoming part of the RRG and the show Home Sweet Home. Listened to in the United States as well as abroad, she has several other choice names that listeners called her.
The film shows Mildred as a very guarded woman who is refusing to tell her side of the story, main, I’m assuming because no one will believe her. In this story, there is a darker side to her time in Germany at the hands of Goebbels that, knowing his history, seems very believable. In the middle, to my way of thinking, brings tons of questions about her life that I am very interested in.
In the end – who truly is Axis Sally?