MASTERS OF THE AIR – Review by Susan Granger

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From Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the same production team that gave us Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010), comes a new, nine-part series Masters of the Air about the heroic W.W.II pilots who set the stage for D-Day.

The 8th Air Force, 100th Bomber Group – known as the “Bloody Hundredth” because of their high casualty rate – was stationed at England’s Thorpe Abbotts Base. In less than six months in 1943, 34 out of 36 crews were shot down. Their high casualty count was attributed to their orders to fly daylight missions over Nazi-occupied territory, while the British stealthily dropped their bombs at night.

Based on Donald L. Miller’s nonfiction account, narrated by airsickness-prone navigator Harry Crosby (Anthony Boyle), the series pivots around Maj. Gale “Buck” Cleven (Austin Butler) and Maj. John “Bucky” Egan (Callum Turner).

Tasked with bringing the war to Hitler’s doorstep, they battled the German Luftwaffe in a real-life superhero story about men who gave up everything for a cause they believed in. They endured mid-air attacks, being shot down, sent to a Stalag and barely escaping certain death by trekking toward Allied territory.

“Buck and Bucky are romantics who grew up dreaming of flying planes,” notes John Orloff, who scripted the series, “That’s why they joined the Army Air Corps. But serving as soldiers in the war changed them. Their friendship deepens and matures as they do.”

The vast supporting cast includes Nate Mann as Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, Barry Keoghan as Curtis Biddick, Ncuti Gatwa as Tuskegee Airman Robert Daniels, Sawyer Spielberg (Steven’s 31 year-old son with Kate Capshaw) as Roy Claytor, and Rafferty Law (Jude’s son) as Ken Lawrenson.

Curious about the B-17s? The gripping fight scenes were filmed in replicas, using technology known as The Volume. Three B-17s were suspended 50 ft. in the air on a gimbal inside a 360-degree stage of seamless LED-panel screens and ceiling. The actors reacted to fake explosions, crashes and other planes in real time.

Logistically, filming the series was a huge challenge with over 3000 crew working on the nine episodes – Steven Spielberg said this has been the biggest project ever.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Masters of the Air soars in with an exhausting, exhilarating 8 – all episodes are now streaming on Apple TV+.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.