Masters Of The Air

Masters of the Air is a 2024 American war drama miniseries created by John Shiban and John Orloff for Apple TV+.

It is based on the 2007 book of the same name by Donald L. Miller and follows the actions of the 100th Bomb Group, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber unit in the Eighth Air Force in eastern England during World War II. The series serves as a companion to Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010). It is the first series to be produced by Apple Studios in cooperation with Playtone and Amblin Television and stars Austin Butler, Callum Turner and Anthony Boyle as part of an ensemble cast. The series consists of nine episodes.

Masters of the Air
Masters Of The Air
GenreWar drama
Created by
Based onMasters of the Air
by Donald L. Miller
Developed byJohn Orloff
Directed by
Starring
Narrated byAnthony Boyle
Theme music composerBlake Neely
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes9
Production
Executive producers
Cinematography
Editors
Running time48–77 minutes
Production companies
Budget$250 million
Original release
NetworkApple TV+
ReleaseJanuary 26 (2024-01-26) –
March 15, 2024 (2024-03-15)
Related

Principal photography began in England in 2021 but was delayed on several occasions due to strict government measures related to COVID-19. Masters of the Air premiered on January 26, 2024. The series received positive reception.

Premise

Masters of the Air recounts the story of the 100th Bomb Group during World War II and follows bomber crews on dangerous missions to destroy targets inside German-occupied Europe.

The show portrays the intensity of war, the dangers that the airmen face, and the friendships and relationships that develop.

Cast

Main

Recurring

  • Darragh Cowley as Lt. Glenn Graham
  • Matt Gavan as Lt. Charles Cruikshank
  • Jonas Moore as Capt. Frank Murphy
  • Jordan Coulson as Lt. Howard Hamilton
  • Ben Radcliffe as Capt. John D. Brady
  • David Shields as Major Everett Blakely
  • Edward Ashley as Major Jack Kidd
  • Raff Law as Sgt. Ken Lemmons
  • Adam Long as Capt. Bernard DeMarco
  • Elliot Warren as Lt. James Douglass
  • Samuel Jordan as Sgt. John J. "Winks" Herrmann
  • Harry Ames as Capt. August H. Gaspar
  • Bailey Brook as Sgt. Charles K. Bailey
  • Louis Greatorex as Capt. Joseph "Bubbles" Payne
  • John Hopkins as Dr. Wendell "Smokey" Stover
  • Nathen Solly as Lt. John Hoerr
  • Josh Bolt as Lt. Winifred "Pappy" Lewis
  • Ian Dunnett Jnr as Lt. Ron Bailey
  • Thomas Flynn as Barr
  • James Frecheville as Major Bill Veal
  • Jonathan Halliwell as Sgt. William J. DeBlasio
  • Dean John-Wilson as Lt. Clifford Milburn
  • Tom Joyner as Cpt. "Stormy" Becker
  • Riley Neldam as Sgt. Michael V. Boccuzzi
  • Adam Silver as Lt. David Solomon
  • Ben Spong as Major Ollie Turner
  • Spike White as Lt. Charles A. Via

Guest

100th Bomb Group

  • Daniel Briggs as Sgt. William Crabb
  • Freddy Carter as Lt. David Friedkin
  • James Meunier as Lt. Kenneth Lorch
  • Kieron Moore as Sgt. Clifford Starkey
  • Oaklee Pendergast as Sgt. William Hinton
  • Francesco Piacentini-Smith as Sgt. Ray H. Robinson
  • Dean Ridge as FO. Richard L. Snyder
  • Sonny Ashbourne Serkis as Lt. James Evans
  • George Smale as Lt. Raymond Nutting
  • George Webster as Lt. Glenn W. Dye
  • Ben Dilloway as Lt. Col. Bill Aring
  • Luke Coughlan as Sgt. James M. Johnson
  • Jon Ewart as Lt. William Couch
  • Max Hastings as Lt. Kenneth Allen
  • Nitai Levi as Sgt. Paul A. Vrabec, Jr.
  • Fionn O'Shea as Sgt. Steve Bosser
  • Neil Pendleton as Sgt. William Stewart
  • Thomas Perry as Sgt. Harold E. Clanton
  • Charlie Rix as Lt. Glen Van Noy
  • Elliott Ross as Lt. Donald Strout
  • Alex Boxall as Sgt. Monroe Thornton
  • Elan Butler as Lt. Robert Shoens
  • Lino Facioli as Lt. Adams
  • Christopher Lakewood as Col Thomas Jeffery
  • Dimitri Leonidas as Sgt. George J. Petrohelos
  • Phillip Lewitski as Lt. Francis Harper
  • Jojo Macari as Capt. Oran Petrich
  • John Schwab as Lt. Col. James W. Lann
  • Corin Silva as Lt. Col. John Bennett
  • Louis Sparks as Sgt. Lester Saunders

Tuskegee Airmen

Other

  • Nancy Farino as Lil, a barmaid at a pub frequented by the airmen
  • Tommy Jessop as Tommy, a local whom Egan befriends
  • Toby Eden as Billy Taylor, a boy who lives near the airfield, looked after by Lemmons
  • Alfie Tempest as Sammy Hurry, a boy who lives near the airfield, looked after by Lemmons
  • Harriet Leitch as Tatty Spaatz, a volunteer for the American Red Cross
  • Emma Canning as Helen, a volunteer for the American Red Cross who makes a connection with Lt. Nash
  • Ben Segers as Vincent, a Belgian resistance fighter aiding Quinn and Bailey in returning to England
  • Vincent Londez as Jean Achten, a Belgian resistance fighter aiding Quinn and Bailey in returning to England
  • Barney White as Bob, a German spy who attempts to blend in with Quinn and Bailey
  • Bronwyn James as Susie, an attendee at Lt. Dye's celebration
  • Lauren McQueen as Rose, an attendee at Lt. Dye's celebration
  • David Austin-Barnes as Stuart O'Neill, a POW at Stalag Luft III
  • Robert Hands as Major Gustav Simoleit, Deputy Commandant at Stalag Luft III
  • Saro Emirze as Hanns Scharff, a Luftwaffe interrogator

Episodes

No.Title Directed byWritten by Original release date 
1"Part One"Cary Joji FukunagaTeleplay by : John Orloff
Story by : John Shiban and John Orloff
January 26, 2024 (2024-01-26)
In spring 1943, USAAF majors Gale Cleven and John Egan of the 100th Bombardment Group deploy to England to join the allied war effort against Nazi Germany. In June, the 100th, comprising four squadrons of B-17s from RAF base Thorpe Abbotts, is sent on a daytime bombing mission to destroy military targets in Bremen, Germany. Despite the use of the advanced Norden bombsight, the bombardiers are unable to confirm the targets due to heavy cloud cover, and the mission is aborted. The 100th is forced to fly through heavy anti-aircraft fire, and is then attacked by Luftwaffe fighter pilots. The failed mission results in the loss of three B-17s and thirty men, while the 100th commanding officer, Colonel Harold Huglin, is relieved of command due to illness.
2"Part Two"Cary Joji FukunagaJohn OrloffJanuary 26, 2024 (2024-01-26)
The 100th copes with its first combat losses. At a pub, RAF members challenge the American tactic of daytime raids; feeling disrespected, Lieutenant (Lt.) Curtis Biddick defeats a British pilot in a bare-knuckle boxing match. The episode also focuses on the importance of ground crew. When Major Marvin Bowman is incapacitated by illness, Major Cleven is tasked with leading the 100th on their second mission: bombing German U-boat pens in Norway. Lt. Harry Crosby, despite airsickness, successfully navigates the mission. Lt. Biddick's B-17 is damaged; the other planes reduce airspeed to stay with Biddick's, which makes a controlled landing without power in Scotland. Following a raucous evening in the mess, the members of the 100th witness an air raid on Norwich.
3"Part Three"Cary Joji FukunagaTeleplay by : John OrloffFebruary 2, 2024 (2024-02-02)
In August 1943, the 100th participates in the Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission to destroy aircraft manufacturing plants deep within Germany before traveling to meet the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa. Lt. Biddick and his co-pilot are killed when they crash trying to make an emergency landing in a forest clearing. Sergeant Quinn parachutes to safety after his B-17 is destroyed; he lands in Belgium and is met by resistance members from an escape line. The surviving members of the 100th arrived in Algeria at Telergma Airfield. The Regensburg task force had lost 24 bombers; more than 60 of the 122 surviving aircraft landing in North Africa had suffered battle damage.
4"Part Four"Cary Joji FukunagaJohn OrloffFebruary 9, 2024 (2024-02-09)
In October 1943, fresh B-17 crews, including Lt. Robert Rosenthal, arrive. The 100th bombs Bremen once again. Feeling the effects of combat exhaustion, Major Egan is sent on leave to London, where he has a one-night stand with a Polish war widow. Learning that Major Cleven did not return from Bremen, Egan returns to duty early. Meanwhile, Sgt. Quinn is guided by Belgian resistance smugglers. He also meets two other American airmen, including Bob, who is killed after being exposed as a German infiltrator. Quinn and the others arrive via train to German occupied Paris on the way to Spain.
5"Part Five"Anna Boden & Ryan FleckJohn OrloffFebruary 16, 2024 (2024-02-16)
The 100th returns from the Bremen mission after taking heavy casualties. Lt. Crosby replaces Captain Payne as the lead navigator and is promoted. Major Egan leads another bombing raid to Münster just days after the Bremen mission. The mission ends disastrously for the 100th after they are intercepted by swarms of fighters. All but one B-17, piloted by Lt. Rosenthal, are shot down. Having bailed from his doomed plane, Major Egan parachutes alone into the German countryside of Westphalia.
6"Part Six"Anna Boden & Ryan FleckJohn OrloffFebruary 23, 2024 (2024-02-23)
October 1943; Major Egan is taken prisoner and almost dies after he and other downed pilots are attacked by civilians while being marched through a bombed town, a reflection of the Rüsselsheim massacre in August 1944. He is taken to Dulag Luft for interrogation before being transferred to Stalag Luft III. There, he meets other comrades from the 100th, including Cleven. Lt. Rosenthal and his crew are sent to a country estate for relaxation and counseling, which Rosenthal resists. Captain Crosby attends a conference at the University of Oxford where he meets a British ATS officer whom he bonds with before she is unexpectedly called away.
7"Part Seven"Dee ReesJohn OrloffMarch 1, 2024 (2024-03-01)
In March 1944, the 100th loses fifteen B-17s and one-hundred-fifty men during a mission over Berlin. Their next attack proves more successful when the bombers are guarded by P-51 Mustang fighter squadrons. They are upset to learn that the number of missions required for a crew to be discharged is being increased to twenty-eight. Captain Rosenthal completes his twenty-fifth mission, but decides to reenlist. He learns General Doolittle is planning to use the B-17 crews as bait to draw the Luftwaffe into the sky to face the P-51s; Rosenthal is placed in command of the 350th. Captain Crosby begins an affair with ATS officer Wesgate. Sgt. Quinn returns to base and is exempted from further missions due to his knowledge of the escape lines. In Stalag Luft III, Major Cleven and other prisoners of war build a crystal radio to tune into the BBC news. A large group of British prisoners escape; Cleven, Egan and the other American officers are threatened that the camp will be turned over to the SS and Gestapo if there are further escape attempts.
8"Part Eight"Dee ReesTeleplay by : John Orloff & Joel Anderson Thompson and Dee Rees
Story by : John Orloff and Joel Anderson Thompson & Morwenna Banks
March 8, 2024 (2024-03-08)
In June 1944, Captain Crosby conducts operational planning for two hundred bombing missions against Wehrmacht positions in France in preparation for Operation Overlord. Working for three straight days, he passes out and sleeps through D-Day. There is virtually no resistance from the Luftwaffe. During Operation Dragoon, the Tuskegee Airmen of the 99th Fighter Squadron are downed attacking German positions at the Côte d'Azur; 2nd lieutenants Richard Macon, Robert Daniels, and Alexander Jefferson are transferred to Stalag Luft III, now under control of the SS. They are invited by Cleven to join with preparations for a potential breakout, now that the Red Army is approaching.
9"Part Nine"Tim Van PattenTeleplay by : John Orloff & Joel Anderson Thompson
Story by : John Orloff
March 15, 2024 (2024-03-15)
In February 1945, Major Rosenthal's plane is shot down over Berlin; he parachutes into no man's land and is rescued by the Red Army. The Germans evacuate Stalag Luft III, forcing the prisoners to march in freezing conditions; they are taken via train to Nuremberg before being interned at Stalag XIII. When they are again forced to march, Majors Cleven and Egan try to escape, but only Cleven succeeds. Cleven survives an attack by Volkssturm children before encountering U.S. Army units. Egan and the other prisoners are taken to Stalag VII and are liberated soon after. In Poznań, Major Rosenthal enters Żabikowo prison camp (which replaced Fort VII) where he sees the bodies of prisoners, as well as signs of the earlier Jewish inmates. Shortly afterwards, Rosenthal speaks Yiddish to a man who has lost his family in the Holocaust. Majors Cleven, Egan, Rosenthal and Crosby reunite at Thorpe Abbotts; they participate in Operations Manna and Chowhound to supply food to the Dutch population stricken by Hongerwinter. After the German surrender, the 100th departs for home. The series ends with a montage explaining the future lives of its central characters.

Production

Masters Of The Air 
Emblem of the Eighth Air Force in World War II

In October 2012, there were reports of a third World War II miniseries, in the same vein as Band of Brothers and The Pacific, but focusing on United States Army Air Forces aircrews of the Eighth Air Force, that was being considered by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. In January 2013, HBO confirmed that it was developing the miniseries, based on Donald L. Miller's book Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, to be adapted by John Orloff. The series would focus on the 100th Bombardment Group of the Eighth Air Force.

In October 2019, it was reported that Apple had made a deal with Spielberg's and Hanks's respective production companies to stream the series exclusively on Apple TV+ instead of HBO. In a statement, HBO later confirmed that it had decided not to move forward with the series. The Hollywood Reporter said it would consist of nine episodes at a total cost of $250 million. The series is the first Apple TV+ series to go into production under the technology firm's in-house production company, Apple Studios.

In October 2020, Cary Joji Fukunaga was announced as director of the first three episodes. In February 2021, Austin Butler and Callum Turner were cast to star. Anthony Boyle and Nate Mann joined the cast in March, with Raff Law, James Murray and Tommy Jessop added in April. Freddy Carter revealed his casting in a May interview, while set photos revealed that Barry Keoghan was also cast. In June, Dee Rees was announced as directing episodes of the series. In July, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were also announced as directing episodes. Colleen Atwood served as costume designer.

In February 2021, it was reported that production had begun at Dalton Barracks (the former WWII airfield RAF Abingdon) in Oxfordshire, England. Retrospective temporary 12-month planning permission was applied for at Newland Park, Chalfont St Peter, following the construction of a WWII barracks on the site. Filming paused briefly in July due to positive COVID-19 tests. Production also occurred in Hemel Hempstead. The series used on-set virtual production by Lux Machina for cockpit scenes.

Release

Masters of the Air premiered on Apple TV+ on January 26, 2024.

A companion documentary titled The Bloody Hundredth, narrated by Tom Hanks, tells the story of the 100th Bomb Group that inspired the stories in Masters of the Air. It was released on March 15, 2024, on Apple TV+.

Reception

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 85% of 95 critics' reviews are positive. The website's consensus reads: "Soaring high with its immaculate production design and acutely well-observed characters, Masters of the Air can stand proud alongside its sibling series Band of Brothers and The Pacific." Metacritic assigned the series a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 based on 40 critics.

Writing for The Guardian, Rebecca Nicholson gave the series five out of five, describing it as "truly fantastic television", portraying the experience of the pilots "as thrilling as it is terrible". However, in the i, Emily Baker rated the series two out of five, describing it as "the first big TV disappointment of 2024". Baker criticizes the predictable and "formulaic" drama, thin characterization, and storylines and suggests that the series is "too old-fashioned to compete with today's prestige TV". The Daily Telegraph criticises the show, saying it "sacrificed authenticity for Hollywood clichés" Empire pointed out that it's all handled with "a certain strain of American exceptionalism" with non-Americans appearing as stereotypes, Brits portrayed as "invariably stiff-upper-lipped" and "only a passing mention" for the RAF.

The series has been criticised regarding its accuracy, with many changes and omissions from the actual story of the 100th. The lack of a strategic narrative was also commented on - "the limited focus on strategy missed the opportunity to put the characters’ experience into context"

The quality of CGI for the aerial scenes was also criticised, including making the B17s seem "cartoonish".

References

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