Hollywood Premiere for ‘Masters of the Air’, Exclusive Review

Hollywood premiere for Hanks-Spielberg miniseries about the "Bloody 100th" and review of the first episode

Tom Hanks with WWII veterans of the 100th Bomb Group. [Photo by Nicholas Kanakis]
Tom Hanks with WWII veterans of the 100th Bomb Group. [Photo by Nicholas Kanakis]


By Nicholas Kanakis

Reminiscent of Hollywood days of old, Masters of the Air, the new miniseries brought to us by the same production team responsible for Band of Brothers and The Pacific, premiered in Hollywood last week at the old Fox Theater in Westwood, California. Based upon the bestselling book of the same name by Dr. Donald Miller, Masters of the Air depicts the graphic reality of aerial combat against Nazi Germany during World War II.

 

Like Band of Brothers, the critically acclaimed 2001 miniseries which follows Easy Company of the 101st Airborne on their trek across Europe, Masters of the Air follows the heroic exploits of one unit: the 100th Bomb Group, also known as the “Bloody 100th” due to heavy losses sustained on several missions. Arriving in England in 1943, the 100th, along with hundreds of other bomb groups, was responsible for the strategic bombardment of Hitler’s Fortress Europe. Broken into nine distinct episodes, Masters of the Air chronicles the stories of individual airmen, their crews, their mechanics, technicians, doctors, chaplains and even fighter escorts and its release has been highly anticipated with the project taking nearly 10 years to come to fruition.

Throughout the years The Westwood Village Theater has been the site for many Hollywood movie premieres in Los Angeles. [Photo by Nicholas Kanakis]
Throughout the years the Westwood Village Theater has been the site for many Hollywood movie premieres in Los Angeles. [Photo by Nicholas Kanakis]
 

Austin Butler and cast were in attendance along with four surviving members of the original “Bloody 100th” during the premiere and Executive Producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg introduced the premiere highlighting many of the challenges faced on set while filming on location in England during the height of COVID in 2020. The budget for Masters of the Air was staggering as no detail was overlooked in relation to equipment, uniforms, and authenticity of the period. Two full-scale replica B-17s were built along with a nearly full-sized air base, bombed-out cityscapes, and a Stalag POW camp. The scale of the project cannot be overstated and as the lights dimmed, we in attendance got our first glimpse of this epic work.

Tom Hanks (left) looks on while fellow executive producer Steven Spielberg speaks to the crowd at the Masters of the Air premiere. [Photo by Nicholas Kanakis]
Tom Hanks (left) looks on while fellow executive producer Steven Spielberg speaks to the crowd at the Masters of the Air premiere. [Photo by Nicholas Kanakis]

To say I was blown away would simply be an understatement. Hanks and Spielberg did outstanding justice to the airmen who flew in such harrowing conditions and their attention to detail was impeccable. As a pilot, I found myself gripping my armrest and stunned by the scale and realism of the combat visuals. Austin Butler as Major Buck Cleven and Callum Turner as Major John Egan portrayed the human dynamic of eagerness for combat dashed against its harsh realities with a relatable ease. The writing did an outstanding job of capturing the playfulness of aircrew juxtaposed against the drama of aerial combat without seeming pandering or too overly “Hollywood.”

Filmed without the use of flying aircraft, there has been much speculation as to the accuracy and believability of the aerial scenes, and I believe audiences will be impressed by the accuracy and high fidelity of visuals manifesting formations of airplanes that simply aren’t possible today. The use of their full-scale replicas and tight shots of actors’ faces and actions place the viewers right in the airplane without feeling fake. Outstanding technical advisors made crews feel at home in the aircraft in a way that would befit a 20-year-old young man with hundreds of hours of training: cool, deliberate, and methodical. Certainly, there were some liberties taken regarding true historical accuracy, mainly relating to when certain crews arrived in the theater, but it did so in a way that propels the storyline and drama forward.

[Photo by Nicholas Kanakis]
[Photo by Nicholas Kanakis]

As the lights rose at the end of the first episode, I found myself in quiet reflection of the tremendous sacrifices made by the aircrew of the Hundredth and the four veterans in attendance that evening. The premiere only showcased the first episode, but if the production value and drama remain as good as the first episode views are truly in for a treat.

Masters of the Air will be released on Apple TV Plus on January 26th, 2024.

Array

3 Comments

  1. I have been eagerly awaiting the initial showing of Masters of the Air since I first heard of the project. I’ve been fascinated with the B17 for sixty years, since I first saw the film and the series “Twelve O’Clock High,” and the film “Air Force.” This intense interest culminated in a flight on a B17G, Aluminum Overcast, in 2018. The greatest adventure of my life, that one half hour flight gave me an entirely new and even greater respect for those tremendously brave American citizen soldiers that took the war to Hitler and his Nazi supermen

  2. This 8AF vet (1970s) is very impressed. The accuracy of the B-17s (I helped restore one in the USAF), the hardware, the CGI works. Through Parts 1 & 2 I have but one nit. When I was in, if my hair looked like theirs, I would have been out of regs. 🙂
    Spoiler Alert! I had a couple of occasions to meet Harry Crosby. I never knew he experienced air sickness.

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