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Masters of the Air, created by Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, and the award-winning team behind Band of Brothers and The Pacific, is an upcoming miniseries about the men of the 100th Bomb Group in World War II. Nicknamed ‘The Bloody 100th’ due to heavy losses and brutal encounters with the German Luftwaffe, the 100th paid a heavy toll for the Allied victory.

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The series is a must-see for fans of history, aviation, military valor, and American heritage. Here’s a (spoiler-free) list of my favorite things about this great new show:

1. The creators

Band of Brothers led the charge in telling episodic World War II stories that capture real heroes and their humanity. The team is back with Masters of the Air and they know how to get it right. 

2. The cast

The series features an outstanding cast led by Academy Award nominee Austin Butler (Elvis), Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore), Anthony Boyle, (Tolkien), and Academy Award nominee Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk). Shout out to casting directors Lucy Bevan and Olivia Grant for bringing together an incredible and believable cast.

From their camaraderie to their expertise to their fear to their pain, they inhabit their characters and do justice to the terrors of war and the bonds forged in military service.

3. The cinematography

It can be easy to forget how young human flight was during World War II, but the visuals of Masters of the Air bring us into the cockpits of B-17s — from the freezing temperatures at altitude to the neck-breaking experience of trying to target enemy fighters to the chaos of taking fire. The cinematography, aerial choreography, and color grading of Masters of the Air feels like the wind in your face and the thrill of the earth thousands of feet below. 

10 things I loved about ‘Masters of the Air’
Nate Mann and Josh Bolt in Masters of the Air

4. The score

Blake Neely returns from The Pacific to compose the score for Masters of the Air, from lofty moments of flight to the tension of combat to moments of grief. The score is a sweeping epic that does justice to the proud and harrowed story of the Bloody 100th. 

5. The effects

The combat scenes are unsettling due in no small part to the special effects team who made it feel like I was watching not from the comfort of home but from within the Flying Fortress. The speed of combat — of bullets strafing the aircraft or the men next to you — really came through. The threat of enemy fighters, the danger of anti-aircraft artillery, and the insanely demanding conditions of those bomber crews was brought to life by the team of artists behind the scenes.

6. Insight into early aviation

I’m an Air Force veteran. My grandfather flew B-29s during World War II. Aviation is in my blood so I can acknowledge that stories of flight mean something extra special to me. But even if that weren’t the case, it’s incredible to recognize how different conditions were for the pilots fighting in the Second World War compared to our easy access to air travel around the globe. They were in unpressurized cabins at 25,000 feet visually scanning for threats — it’s absolutely insane. It was incredibly dangerous and it took skill and courage for our aviators to do what they did.

INSIDE LOOK WITH STEVEN SPIELBERG AND TOM HANKS:

7. Portraying the dark side of war

I promised no spoilers, but these men weren’t nicknamed “The Bloody 100th” for nothing. They do not all survive this series — and the ones that do survive will carry seen and unseen wounds for the rest of their lives. It’s critical when telling military stories that we do not simply glorify moments of valor. They come at a dire cost. Through the experiences of these characters, Masters of the Air reminds us that freedom is not free.

“All that we do, day in and day out, it does something to a guy, doesn’t it?”

10 things I loved about ‘Masters of the Air’
Austin Butler and Callum Turner in Masters of the Air.

8. The costumes

There is something timeless and iconic about 1940s style. When the show spends time with the female characters, we get that classic 40s silhouette, red lips, and pin-up hair — and it was beautifully done. 

But there is a reason aviator glasses and aviator jackets have remained the staple for nearly one hundred years now (aviator sunglasses were first commissioned by the U.S. Army in 1935). They look badass. I don’t know how else to say it. Costume Designer Colleen Atwood bundled up our boys to a tee and transported us all back in time.

9. American Heritage

World War II was a time in our past when our nation rose to fight very serious threats across the globe. There is much to criticize about our history, but we were perhaps most unified during the war and we emerged victorious at great cost. Masters of the Air takes time to celebrate Tuskegee Airmen while acknowledging the racism they had to overcome in addition to the challenges of military service and combat. We can never undo the errors of the past, but we can witness them, acknowledge them, and learn from them so we do not repeat our mistakes. I think it is also important to celebrate our achievements, and defeating the Axis Powers was one of our greatest.

10. Fighting Nazis

Hitler’s racist, homophobic, and violently antisemitic regime is easy to criticize. Obstructing his aims was the right thing to do and celebrating the defeat of the Nazis is a hard-won no-brainer. Who doesn’t love seeing our side beat the Nazis?


Masters of the Air will premiere on Apple TV+ on Jan. 26, 2023, and will feature nine episodes total over its weekly release schedule.