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Masters of the Air trailer goes well beyond recreating stock footage from WWII

Dad’s not ready for this

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Read any memoir from World War II and you’ll inevitably find it: the “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”-style moment of first contact with the enemy. The latest trailer for Masters of the Air has one too, and it goes by at a closing speed of roughly 500 knots.

Four men walk from a parked B-17 bomber, their flight bags over a shoulder and a grim look on their faces. It is dawn. Image: Apple TV Plus

Masters of the Air tells the story of the 100th Bomb Group, one of the most decorated and most devastated wings of B-17 bomber crews ever to ever fly over Europe. The Apple TV Plus series stars Austin Butler, Callum Turner, and Barry Keoghan, among others. But as the source material, Masters of the Air by Donald R. Miller, will tell you, theirs was a different kind of war — one that played out in sub-zero conditions with crews breathing oxygen from primitive rubber tubes.

It was also incredibly fast. Before the war began, the B-17 was faster than any other fighter plane in the U.S. inventory. By the end, German jets and rocket-planes passed it like it was standing still.

Tom Hanks’ Playtone and company have used a hybrid approach to the action, with meticulously detailed B-17 and P-51 cockpits and crew bays juxtaposed against state-of-the-art Volume-style CGI. As a result, the action shows rather than tells how this unique war was fought. Even these small glimpses that we’ve seen already put films like Memphis Belle to shame.

Masters of the Air premieres Jan. 26 on Apple TV Plus.

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