MASTERS OF THE AIR. “Band of Brothers” in airplanes [REVIEW of two episodes]

How does “Masters of the Air”, the new war series by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg look?

Lukasz Budnik

28 January 2024

Masters of the Air

“War. War never changes.” This quote from the iconic game Fallout comes to my lips after watching the first two episodes of “Masters of the Air”. It’s true. War cinema has developed its own convention. It affects us most effectively when it is presented on the screen with pathos and spectacle. The characters understand sacrifice, and the creators can be bold – and vice versa. However, all of this should be tied together with the appropriate style.

An example of this convention is, for instance, Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.” The film, which strongly promotes the American perspective on war, was such a clear artistic success (winning five Oscars, including one for Spielberg himself) that it was decided to capitalize on it and create a TV series. It’s not hard to guess that a budget of $125 million for “Band of Brothers” in 2001 was unimaginable. But it paid off again. HBO then released one of the best, if not the best, war series in history.

Almost ten years later, another chapter of American involvement in World War II was decided to be shown on the small screen. “The Pacific” may not have become as iconic as “Band of Brothers,” but it must be acknowledged that it is on the same level in terms of production. Apparently, enough water had flowed under the bridge (fourteen years since “The Pacific” premiered) to reveal another war story, led by a team of young soldiers ready for the highest sacrifice.

This time, the matrix changed. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, executive producers, moved their toys from HBO to Apple. However, for viewers, this change is insignificant. The most important thing is that the quality remained unchanged, and playing soldiers again evokes the highest emotions. Literally.

The success of “Top Gun: Maverick” already showed that there is something about flying a plane that is perfect for the cinema. Can this be seen as a metaphor for freedom? Not necessarily, especially since the characters in “Masters of the Air” must obediently follow their superiors’ orders. For us, viewers, cinematic flying is pure escapism, especially when the characters provide us with justified and strong motivation for taking off into the skies. Importantly, we don’t need to know anything about it; the airplane cockpit remains a mystery during the show. But if we care about the characters, we’ll fly with them to the ends of the earth.

With two episodes of “Masters of the Air” already watched, it can be stated clearly – I already feel that a significant hit has arrived. The spirit of the previous chapters of this one, great story (though adapted from different books each time, to be precise), narrating the war fates of various groups of soldiers, has been effectively captured. Some CGI might be lacking, but in general, it is already evident that this spectacle is suitable for not only the small screen but also the big one.

Additionally, the most important thing: the skillful exposition of characters, which was roughly given in the first two episodes, has made it possible for us to cheer for someone in this story. In terms of acting, it also looks promising, especially with names like Austin Butler or Barry Keoghan in the cockpit. However, it turns out that Callum Turner, unknown to me before, will be more effective at stealing the screen.

There is a scene where carefree evening drinking is interrupted by an alarm siren. A German bombing raid has started nearby. In war, you can never be sure if the peace you feel at a given moment is just the calm before the storm. Let this be a successful forecast for what we, as viewers of “Masters of the Air”, will receive in the coming weeks. They got me. For this team, I am willing to set aside emotional comfort and engage in the battle.

Łukasz Budnik

Lukasz Budnik

He loves both silent cinema and contemporary blockbusters based on comic books. He looks forward to watching movie with his growing son.

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