Masters of the Air
Today’s media landscape offers no shortage of war stories, and added to that pile this week are episodes of Apple TV+’s Masters of the Air. The show, based on Donald L Miller’s nonfiction book of the same name, follows the 100th Bomb Group as they carry out high-risk raids over Nazi Germany.
With Austin Butler, Callum Turner and Barry Keoghan (fresh from the hype of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn) at its helm, the main cast includes some of today’s most exciting male talent. Butler’s sombre “Buck” and Turner’s boisterous “Bucky” bounce off each other well, sowing the seeds of a gripping wartime brotherhood. It’s Anthony Boyle’s Lt Harry Crosby, though, who gives the most compelling performance: vulnerable, loveable and easy to root for, he is the man I’ll want most on my screen as the show progresses. Although unsurprising, the lack of female characters is certainly disappointing.
The scenes in the air are tense, bolstered by a thrilling score, and show masterful direction with a melange of internal and external shots that aren’t too jumpy, making it entirely believable. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (of No Time to Die) excels here. The drab greys of war are mostly avoided, giving the feeling of a hopeful dawn, and there are many gorgeous shots throughout. With Steven Spielberg executive producing, how could it be any different?
While the performances and cinematography shine, the show takes a couple of episodes to get going. Many episodes hold similar scenes – a fight in the air, something goes amiss, they land and go to a jazz-filled, orange-lit pub – and while said scenes are beautiful to look at and acted superbly, it leaves one wanting something more. The series is meant to be a deep dive into the psychological effect of such ruthless, demanding and deathly conditions, and this is clear. Turner’s “Bucky” is already coping by drinking and yelling at the open sky. It tends to read as a character study more than a plot-driven war epic – but it’s fair that some watchers may find it too slow-paced.
Character-centric shows often need you to stick with it for the payoff to be worth it, and it’s performances like Boyle’s and Turner’s that keep you watching, the promise of deep emotional impact always flickering.
Masters of the Air is released on Apple TV+ on 26th January 2024.
Watch the trailer for Masters of the Air here: