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Masters of the Air Sputters a Bit, When It Should Soar

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By Katie Sterling

Callum coverage seemingly continues during this week’s newest entertainment review but, this week flips from the water to the sky! In his latest project post The Boys in the Boat, Callum Turner trades in his oars for aircrafts as part of the 100th bomber group in Apple TV’s latest, Masters of the Air. 

This nine-part series set during World War II is intended to complete the trilogy of previously produced war stories from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Following the epic productions of Band of Brothers and The Pacific, Masters of the Air is the first to tackle the saga from the perspective of those that fought in the sky.

Those tuning into the series are abruptly introduced to Major John “Bucky” Egan (Callum Turner) and Major Gale “Buck” Cleven (Austin Butler) as they are toasting each other and deep in conversation about what dangers lie ahead of them. It’s not your typical slow intro into a war series, and I actually had to double check that I hadn’t accidentally started the series on a later episode. However, you quickly learn that this series makes frequent use of disjointed scene jumps when not focusing on the crux of the show’s narrative: the air scenes.

Navigator Major Harry Crosby (Anthony Boyle) joins the duo and the audience soon learns the narrative will be driven by his voiceover and his first-person perspective tales on being a part of the 100th bomber group, also known as the “Bloody Hundredth” for how often this division experienced major tragedies. 

What follows (thus far, in the three episodes already dropped) are your typical wartime stories: navigating missions, questioning morality and bonding with your fellow brethren. It’s at times equally fascinating and fairly dull, missing that certain essence that previous Spielberg/Hanks collaborations shined with.

However, some of the strongest scenes are those that, unsurprisingly, take place in the air as the men embark on their missions against the Nazis. While the airstrikes are of course faked, you don’t want them to necessarily look fake and it’s best if you take in those graphics with a grain of salt. What really shines in those moments are the interactions between the various members of the squad and their respective duties while airborne. History buffs will already know how the various cogs of the machine work in tandem, but the actors thrive in portraying their characters with equal parts pride, fear and partnership. They perfectly embody the vulnerability of being miles above the ground and how their small part of the plane lends itself to such a bigger picture. It’s these scenes that make Masters of the Air worth watching, seeing as how when the narrative is back on solid ground, it tends to drag; the literal highs and lows of the show one could say.  

With only a third of the episodes dropped, there are plenty more opportunities for this series to shine, but as of yet, Masters of the Air is quite simply an average wartime saga. While the series is certainly backed by big names, Masters of the Air delivers a captivating storyline, but dare I say, never quite reaches the heights it intends to.

Masters of the Air is currently streaming on Apple TV.


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