Rarefied ‘Air’

Published date23 January 2024
Publication titleSignal
IT’S rare I do this when I watch a show, but I had to keep pausing and texting a number of my friends about Masters of the Air, because it felt important to let them know. “Have you heard of Masters of the Air?” I would say, and they would say ‘‘no’’. And I’d type out — Austin Butler’s perfect face frozen mid-toothpick-chew on my screen — “It’s like Band of Brothers but in the sky. Go and watch the trailer now.” And exactly two minutes and 31 seconds later I would get the reply: “oh s....” And then: “oh S...!”

It’s Masters of the Air week, then, and this is very exciting. It’s sort of like — how would I describe it? Like Band of Brothers, but in the sky. They got the old production team together — no-namers Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman — and got Cary Joji Fukunaga back where he belongs, which is directing all-timer episodes of TV. (He takes the helm for the first four episodes of this limited series — the man who gave us True Detective season one and all of Maniac! Back on TV!) They threw somewhere between $US250million ($NZ409m) and $US300m at it, which always works, and they assembled an unbelievable cast: Austin Butler, who you will remember from sending himself mad playing Elvis in a film that turned out to just be a music video, is one of the leads opposite Callum Turner, who is about to be a heavily googled man. The rest of the cast list goes on for ever, so I won’t get to everyone, but you’ve got: Bel Powley, Anthony Boyle and Stephen Campbell Moore. You’ve got nepotism’s very own Raff Law and Sawyer Spielberg. And, due to a quirk of filming (Masters has been in production since 2012; it defected from HBO to Apple TV+ in 2019, becoming Apple Studios’ first in-house series; it was filmed, and delayed, and filmed again across 2021, dogged by Covid), it accidentally cast two of 2024’s ascendant stars, so Ncuti Gatwa is in, as is Barry Keoghan.

It’s Butler and Turner who dominate this one, though. It’s amazing that anyone just walks around looking like Austin Butler — he is magnetically good-looking, almost breathtakingly so, in an old-school gravity-absorbing way you thought they stopped making in the 50s — and he prowls around Masters of the Air, purring every line into Callum Turner’s ear. Butler plays Maj Gale “Buck” Clevan, and Turner is John “Bucky” Egan, and you think...

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