This thrilling new Apple TV+ war drama is the most cinematic show I've seen all year

Masters Of The Air still
(Image credit: Apple)

I finally cashed in my free Apple TV+ trial specifically to watch Masters Of The Air and I'm very happy to share that it was so worth it. As the follow-up to HBO's massively successful Spielberg classic Band Of Brothers, there was every chance it was going to be good. Sure, its first companion piece, The Pacific, was less of a hit, but this latest air-based instalment gives this storytelling world new excitement and life.

I'd like to say that it is simply the true stories of heroism, the directing, acting or the Spielberg touch that are behind its magic. And it is all of that, and then some. But it is also the audio and visual splendour that truly blew me away.

For the record, every episode of Masters Of The Air is streaming on Apple TV+ in 4K and Dolby Vision HDR video and Dolby Atmos surround sound, meaning if you have a decent internet connection, Apple TV+ subscription (or free trial!) and a TV system that supports all – or even some – of these modern miracle technologies, I guarantee this is one of the best, most immersive streamable home cinema experiences available to you right now.

Masters of the Air

(Image credit: Apple)

On cloud nine

Thinking about being up in the air may leave you with an image of clouds and the subtle sound of gentle rushing air. The reality is far harsher, of course. Add to that a warzone and you have a whole lot going on... in a 360-degree soundfield that is wonderfully well presented in Dolby Atmos surround sound. For that reason, this is a great way to test your surround sound system.

Through a Dolby Atmos soundbar or, better yet, a fully fledged Atmos speaker system, you get to experience what it may have felt like to be in a metallic plane with bullets ricocheting off the side, ordnance exploding outside the windows and lots and lots of shouting onboard. To some extent, at least.

Every air-based battle scene, of which there are many in this show, leaves you holding your breath and only realising you were doing so when it's all over. I caught myself fully alert at one point as I heard bullets pinging against metal over my shoulder as the captain shouted from down in front – as if I were sitting in the middle of it all.

Masters of the Air

(Image credit: Apple)

Eye-watering heights

The visuals don't let the side down either. And no, I'm not talking about all those chiselled jawlines; rather the scale of everything – it's so encapsulating. 

You're in the air for a lot of this, meaning you're mostly in a swarm of clouds (which planes can – and do – break through without warning) and, consequently, the heart of the action. Indeed, you'll want to have settled on your preferred TV or projector motion setting before settling into this one. Episode five, which features the series’ longest and fiercest battle in the skies over Germany, is particularly enthralling, so be sure to turn the lights down and the volume up for that one.

The pin-sharp 4K resolution and rich Dolby Vision contrast let you easily pick out details on each plane and the myriad scrapes and oil stains across the young men's faces, though really such insight simply contributes to an authentic picture that matches the oft-bleak environments.

Masters of the Air

(Image credit: Apple)

While everything was shot in a more muted manner, to give that feeling of it being in times of old, there is still richness. The colours might not be punchy or varied when it comes to the muted mustard yellow and murky black clothes the actors wear, but when an explosion hits in bright yellow and orange, or blood splatters in rich claret, it stands out all the more for it.

Bullets whizzing by are visibly hot as the colour streaks across the screen. This is where HDR comes in to give contrast which helps make these individual parts stand out. And when a lot is going on, as is the case in many of the frantic battle scenes, it helps to have an attentive picture to help your attention be drawn to where the director wants it, to guide you through the story. I say 'story' – a better word might be 'experience'. 


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