No Escape on Paramount+ review: this nautical drama is a white-knuckle ride

 (New Pictures Ltd/Nut Jirathit)
(New Pictures Ltd/Nut Jirathit)

Despite the unbelievable popularity of Netflix’s steamy reality show Below Deck, its die-hard fans might reconsider their desire to become an easy-breezy, port-hopping yacht attendant after watching Paramount+’s No Escape.

Based on Lucy Clarke’s fantastic novel The Blue, the show’s very first frame plunges viewers into an almost supernaturally eerie crime. Emergency responders are inching through a ransacked yacht room by room; on the wall of one of the cabins, written in a barely legible, bloody scrawl, is simply: “I confess”.

We first meet Lana (Abigail Lawrie) as she’s being questioned by Australian police. From there, the bulk of the show’s plot unfolds via flashbacks, of Lana and her best friend Kitty (Rhianne Barreto) on the run.

Lana and Kitty happen to be casual criminals. Flush with cash, they’re paying their way through the Philippines using stolen credit cards and wallets – which leads them onto a yacht named The Blue, which is populated by an interesting group of misfits.

As they fall deeper into this transient, nomadic life, the characters drink and party themselves into oblivion, refusing to give up their own personal ‘paradise’, and refusing to acknowledge that they are ultimately imprisoned by it. It’s like Spring Breakers on ketamine.

Well, how else does the collective - chock-full of entirely self-interested escape artists - navigate the after effects of a crime while aboard a vessel in the middle of the ocean with, quite literally, no escape?

BAFTA award-winning Lawrie, who was so good in Sky Atlantic’s Tin Star, and rising star Barreto are stunning, with their compelling, emotionally charged performances brought to life by director Hans Herbots – whose work includes BBC One and Netflix’s true crime thriller The Serpent.

In fact, much like a true crime documentary (only with more sex, partying, and teenage drinking) No Escape reels the viewer in, frame by frame. It’s helped by the lush, tropical landscapes which provide the series’ background – the show was filmed in some of Thailand’s most idyllic locations.

The writers do an excellent job of giving the six supporting characters making up the crew on The Blue a fascinatingly mysterious backstory. Are they and the leads likeable? Not really, but they’re incredibly watchable, and the gripping plotting only winds viewers in tighter.

At its core, No Escape is a show with suspenseful pacing with rich characters. It’s the perfect summer watch - just not aboard a yacht.

Available to watch on Paramount+ from May 18