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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Masters of the Air movie review (2024)

The ability to recall significantly better episodes of “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” is another of the show’s glaring issues. “Masters of the Air” mostly follows the same blueprint of those previous Spielberg-Hanks offerings, making its own version of episodes like “Replacements” (where, in this series, a character like Robert Rosenthal played by Nate Mann emerges), “Why We Fight,” and “Okinawa.” These attempts to recapture a previously successful formula fall short because this series lacks any psychological dimension. In “Band of Brothers” an episode like “Crossroads” witnessed Winters confronting his casualties. The entirety of “The Pacific” concerns Eugene Sledge parsing his borderline war crimes. But no such introspection exists in “Masters of the Air.” It’s just a show concerned with the kind of blind patriotism that only sees war through the lens of American loss. 

That kind of human complexity only takes place late, when the Tuskegee Airmen appear in an episode directed by Dee Rees. How can these Black men fight for a country that refuses to grant them rights? It’s a basic question, asked time and again. But in this series, where no white person interrogates themselves, even this kind of low-hanging fruit can offer a hearty meal. There’s one scene, for instance, where they’re talking about their sweethearts. Instead of showing a picture of a woman, one airman has a photo of his home—a nod to the pride he feels being a homeowner. These Black airmen, played by Ncuti Gatwa and Branden Cook, are so charismatic, in fact, you come to wish the entire series was about them.

And yet, it’d be difficult to label “Masters of the Air” as bad. It’s merely an average war drama, with a few sequences that will thrill, offering a little bit more insight than you had before with some sturdy period detail and costuming. It’s just that when sights are set high, a humdrum construction can be a fatal blow.  

Whole series screened for review. Premieres on Apple TV+ on January 26th.

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