AUSTIN BUTLER CLEARLY isn’t content with only being known as ‘the guy who played Elvis’. The 32-year-old is trading his blue suede shoes for a pilot’s cap and continuing his rise through Hollywood’s ranks with a starring role in upcoming World War II drama Masters of the Air.
The series will serve as a companion piece to the much-loved series Band of Brothers and The Pacific, and it has some seriously impressive talent working behind the camera. Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman are joining forces for the series, and that much experience at the helm is bound to be a recipe for success.
Specifics on the plot are scarce at the moment, but if our first look at the series is any indication, it’s going to be a massive hit with fans of the genre, and by fans of the genre we mean people who like vintage planes, and the idea of Austin Butler flying those planes.
With an all-star cast, industry legends behind the camera, and a captivating setting based on a true story, Masters of the Air looks set to be must-see TV. Let’s break down everything we know about the series so far.
What is Masters of the Air about?
Masters of the Air is based on Donald L. Miller’s 2007 non-fiction book of the same name. The series synopsis reads as follows:
“Masters of the Air follows the men of the 100th Bomb Group as they conduct perilous bombing raids over Nazi Germany and grapple with the frigid conditions, lack of oxygen, and sheer terror of combat conducted at 25,000 feet in the air.”
That’s about as far as official plot details for the series go, and we’re still waiting on a trailer, but we can expect it to closely follow the events of its source material, which focuses on the 100th Bombardment Group, or as that air-wing is more commonly known, the Bloody Hundredth. You don’t get a nickname like that for playing it safe and turning tail at the first sign of danger. The Bloody Hundredth flew massive B-17 flying fortresses, saw battle in some of the fiercest above-ground confrontations of the second World War, and were critical in turning the tide in the allies’ favour. If you don’t think that sounds like an interesting basis for a series, you may need to re-evaluate your interests.
You may have seen your fair share of war movies and be wondering how this one will stand out. Most of them do tend to have a lot in common: plenty of guns, plenty of death, and plenty of the colour grey. But Masters of the Air will have a few distinctions. For one, Masters of the Air is a series, not a film, which is actually quite a rare feat in the war drama genre. Furthermore, Air Force pilots are significantly different than your typical run-of-the-mill infantryman, as is specified in the book’s synopsis. “Unlike ground soldiers, they slept on clean beds, drank beer in local pubs, and danced to the swing music of the travelling Air Force bands. But they were also an elite group of fighters who put their lives on the line in the most dangerous role of all.” We can expect Austin Butler and his men to be of the same ilk.
Who is in Masters of the Air?
A better question would be ‘who isn’t in the series?’ As mentioned above, leading Masters of the Air’s star-studded cast is Austin Butler, who will play Major Gale Cleven, a talented pilot and leadership figure within the Bloody Hundredth. Joining Butler is Barry Keoghan, who has found time in between being Jacob Elordi’s muse in Saltburn to film this series.
Callum Turner is also slated to appear; you may know him as the centrepiece of the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Rounding out the cast is Raff Law (yes, the son of Jude), Sex Education and Barbie’s Ncuti Gatwa, and Sawyer Spielberg (another nepo baby incoming).
Who is making Masters of the Air?
As we mentioned earlier, Masters of the Air has no shortage of talent working behind the scenes. The series will be executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman, all of whom previously worked together on Band of Brothers.
Masters of the Air has no fixed director, instead opting for a rotating roster. Directing almost half of the series is Cary Joji Fukunaga, the filmmaker behind Beasts of No Nation and True Detective. The rest of series’ directorial duties will fall to Dee Rees, Timothy Van Patten, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
Is Masters of the Air related to Band of Brothers?
If you’re not familiar with the 2001 war drama series Band Of Brothers, you should be. The show followed the US Army’s ‘Easy’ Company from its inception to the end of the war and was a huge success, since becoming an enduring standout in the war drama genre. Upon its release, Band of Brothers—which features David Schwimmer, Michael Fassbender, and Tom Hardy, to name a few—was the most expensive TV series ever made, and it won plenty of awards for its troubles.
While Masters of the Air isn’t a direct sequel to Band of Brothers, as it won’t include any of the same characters or storylines, it is being described as a companion piece. So, we can at least call it a spiritual sequel.
Where can you watch Masters of the Air?
Masters of the Air is an Apple TV+ production, and therefore it will be appearing exclusively on the streaming service. The series comes at an opportune time for Apple TV+, as Ted Lasso just wrapped up, and the streamer will be looking for new marquee content. Sure, making the transition from a light-hearted comedy to a gritty World War II period drama might be slightly jarring for viewers at first, but quality is quality, and Masters of the Air will have that in abundance.
When is Masters of the Air coming out?
Along with our first look at Masters of the Air, we also received a released date: January 26th, 2024. Two episodes will premiere on that date, followed by new episodes every week for a total of nine episodes.