Masters of the Air, the review of the first episode of the TV series

After the paratroopers of Band of Brothers and the marines of The Pacific (both series are on Sky and NOW) Spielberg and Hanks complete their trilogy with the aviators of Masters of the Air. The series, which comes out today 26 January on Apple TV+ (also visible on Sky Glass, Sky Q and via app on NOW Smart Stick), was previewed on 25 January at the Anteo Palazzo del Cinema, with the screening of a first an episode that has very little of an introductory nature and has the advantage of immediately plunging the viewer into the action and fighting of the Second World War.


The initial part is dedicated to the introduction of the two protagonists, Bucky (Callum Turner) and Buck (Austin Butler). Friends and comrades, we meet them at a party before leaving for the United Kingdom, where their unit, the 100th Bomber Group of the US Air Force, will be based for a series of raids aimed at weakening the German army and “bringing Hitler’s war.”


Bucky and Buck are the pivot around which all the events revolve, the soul of the series, and you can understand this straight away. One is the negative reflection of the other: the first is cynical, flirting with death in search of a meaning that his life seems to have lost; the second is romantic and sentimental, attaching his girlfriend’s photograph to the fuselage of his bomber before leaving for his first mission against the Germans. Bucky and Buck share everything, even the name or almost, but they couldn’t be more different from each other, the former totally disenchanted, the latter still capable of feeling amazement and fear.


Masters of the Air is built around them, with the support of an overall excellent cast which includes, among others, Barry Keoghan (BAFTA award for best supporting actor for The spirits of the island) and Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education, Doctor Who), but also on a budget of 300 million dollars which, judging from the first episode, could not have been better spent.


The rendering of the aerial scenes is extraordinary, with computer graphics at unusually excellent levels for a television production (but, alas, also for most mainstream film productions), thanks also to the direction of Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) who masterfully directs the first and three other episodes, taking the viewer inside the gigantic four-engine aircraft and into the personal drama of those who occupied the cockpit.


The great merit of Masters of the Air seems to be that of succeeding in the aim of being spectacular without making war, death and extermination spectacular. To deeply touch the spectator’s feelings, moving him when it’s time to do so, without ever forgetting to focus on a visual excellence that is never baroque, relying on the extraordinary nature of a technical sector that enhances the quality of costumes, sets and photography.


Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks close their trilogy with a series that chooses, right from those vintage-looking opening credits, a classic narrative of what is perhaps the only war universally recognized as “just”, the one fought against Hitler and Nazism, the only one in which the distinction between good and evil has ever been so clear. And he seems to fully succeed.