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‘Masters of the Air’ trailer is full of action — and maybe some spoilers

The trailer to the follow up to 'Band of Brothers' and 'The Pacific' moves between high altitude combat and POW camps.
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masters of the air trailer
The latest World War II miniseries from Steve Speilberg and Tom Hanks follows the "Bloody Hundreth" B-17 bomber group. Screengrab from YouTube.

A new trailer dropped this morning for “Masters of the Air,” the miniseries due in January based in the air war over Europe at the tail end of World War II.

The trailer rehashes much of earlier teasers but appears to add some heavy foreshadowing for those who want to dig into it. Read on below for some ‘ungrounded’ speculation and WAGs at what the video might reveal about the upcoming series, or stop here if you want to go into the show next month with a clean slate.

The series starts on Apple TV+ January 26 with a two-episode debut, with a new episode released every Friday afterwards, like we’re all still watching Lost or something.

As for the new trailer, before we even click play on the video, the show’s DNA tells us what to expect. “Masters” is based on an historical book, and produced by Stephen Speilberg and Tom Hanks, the same recipe of research and creativity that produced “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.”

That means we can expect true-to-life depictions of direct combat, tracking the lives — and likely deaths — of bankers’ sons and farmers’ sons and immigrants’ sons and prodigal sons all thrown together to fight, and all quickly realizing that war is a daily grind in which you are, as the saying goes, always short of everything but the enemy.

The cast includes rising-but-not-super stars like Austin Butler, Callum Turner and Barry Keoghan, all actors in their early 30s who look a decade younger onscreen.

Not surprisingly, then, our trailer begins with several baby-faced officer pilots — mostly Butler and Turner — and enlisted aircrew members wading through predictable war-movie cliches: saying goodbye to pretty girls, marching into cold barracks, looking pensive in briefing rooms and, once airborne, facing lots and lots and lots of flak and enemy fighters.

In some ways, the war over Europe is a more terrifying on screen subject than the one fought by ground troops. The Marines in “The Pacific” and the paratroopers of Easy Company in “Band of Brothers” could usually, no matter how fierce the combat, make tactical decisions and shoot back to save their own lives. In the B-17s over Europe, crews had to, as one pilot screams at another mid-flight “sit here and take it.” Fighters swarmed, flak exploded and crews were mostly powerless to affect their fate (statistics bear this out: air crews in the Eighth Air Force died more often than their infantry counterparts in Europe or the Pacific).  

That feeling of helplessness is clear in the trailer, as planes are shredded and explode, with wounds, bodies and thousands of spent rounds filling the fuselages.

masters of the air
That’ll buff out.

But there’s more. 

“Masters” is based on a book of the same name by historian and professor Donald L. Miller, which followed the 100th Bomb Group — known as the “Bloody Hundredth” — within the Eighth Air Force. Miller’s book relied on interviews with about 250 veterans of the Eighth Air Force, along with archives and memoirs, similiar to “Band of Brothers” by Stephen E. Ambrose and the four books on which The Pacific is based.

Along with the brutality and stark odds of the air war, Miller also covered the plight of many who didn’t come back but survived in the mostly-forgotten German Stalag Lufts, POW camps for captured allied aircrews.

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Several scenes in the new trailer show what looks like a POW storyline — a crash, Turner evading in a swamp, aircrew on a train manned by German soldiers passing a freight car filled with Jews, and a distinctive shot of Turner high on a flagpole inside a prison camp with an American flag.

There’s also at least a side plot of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Black fight pilots who made up a segregated fighter squadrons over Europe and became favorites as escorts among bomber pilots. One quick image shows Black officers beneath a sign for the 332nd Fighter Squadron, a P-51 flying unit known as the Red Tails for the red stripe they painted over the plane’s tail.

In all, the trailer suggests Masters of the Air will be exactly what you’d expect — relentless action, built around young, terrified soldiers playing their very small part of a giant war.

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