NO ESCAPE | Paramount+ | May 18, 2023
Starring: Jay Ryan, Rhianne Barreto, Susie Porter, Abigail Lawrie, Sean Keenan, Narayan David Hecter, Colette Dalal Tchantcho, Elmo Anton Stratz, Josh McConville, Jake Macapagal
Directed: Hans Herbots
The Blue is the story of two deeply bonded best friends, Lana and Kitty, adrift in the big wide world. Running from their own sins, they find refuge on a yacht, The Blue. Crewed by a group of beautiful young people who sail through South East Asia, living a life of endless beaches, ocean and parties. But The Blue also harbours a dark secret. And in joining her crew, Kitty and Lana fall into far greater dangers than the ones they were trying to escape.
SEASON REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
No Escape is a beautiful watch with the blue oceans of Thailand and cinematography that raises the tenison of the story perfectly, but the story ultimately takes too long to get exciting for this series to be your next must watch thriller.
Adapting novels into television miniseries is all the rage, and compared to film, it gives time for the full story to be told and capture the story of the novel as accurately as possible. It’s been done many times to great effect with shows such as Big Little Lies, C.B. Strike and Little Fires Everywhere. Next up is Paramount+’s adaptation of Lucy Clarke’s No Escape, a thriller set on the waters of South East Asia full of mystery and deception. While the story itself is full of promise and potential, the pacing does drag to start until the show finds its juicy story in the final three episodes, and while it is not bad television by any means, it is not as exciting as a watch as it could have been.
Lana and Kitty, two young women from the United Kingdom on the run, find themselves in South East Asia. There, while trying to avoid local authorities, they come across The Blue, a sailing ship manned by a collection of young people. As they continue to run, Lana and Kitty take passage on The Blue. Weeks later, The Blue is discovered abandoned with a bloody message written on its walls, sparking an investigation by Australian authorities. And the only person who can help them uncover the truth is Lana, who left the ship weeks prior but is purposely withholding what happened during her time on the ship.
There is no denying that the series is beautifully shot. The blue green oceans of Thailand pop on screen, creating a breezy getaway for viewers. Nighttime and interior ship sequences feature tight cinematography and lots of shadow, adding a sense of danger and mystery to every shot. CGI is used smartly to create this breathtaking sea voyage to subtly remove other boats and landmarks to create the remote experience that the crew of The Blue are on in the show. By doing so, the series visually entrances you with the beautiful imagery on screen, while the screenplay spins its mystery.
Supporting the visuals of the film is a very strong international cast. Performances across the board are great, with each actor doing their part to further the mystery of what happened on The Blue and why the authorities are investigating it weeks after Lana sailed on it. Specifically, it is Abigail Lawrie and Jay Ryan as Lana and Aaron respectively who stand out among the cast. Lawrie is captivating as Lana, carrying an air of mystery around what she knows about what happened to The Blue’s crew. She’s sympathetic and easy to care about, but you feel like you can’t trust her at times, which keeps you guessing as to what actually happened to her while on the ship. It’s a great lead performance that helps build the intrigue and suspense of the story, which is crucial to the success of the miniseries. Ryan is formidable as Aaron, creating a formidable leader with a darkness brewing within him that keeps you questioning whether his character could have more sinister intentions while captaining the Blue.
Where the series stumbles is the story. There are lots of questions the audience is presented with in the first episode, as multiple mysteries play out over the course of the series: why are Lana and Kitty on the run? Why did Lana leave the Blue? Why was the Blue found abandoned? Why did someone write “I confess” on the wall of the Blue in blood? And what secrets is Lana not sharing with the authorities? They’re all intriguing questions to explore, crafting a story that will help keep audiences watching the series. But it is the pacing where it stumbles. The first four episodes are slow, posing the questions with very little answers and not significant twists that further the mystery. It’s a slow watch that at times is frustrating, as there is no clear progression as to where the story is going. But with a shocking reveal of the fourth episode, the story finally hooks the viewer and begins to tie together everything you have watched in the first four episodes. The larger picture becomes clearer, as the screenplay shifts the focus of the story as it begins to answer some of the questions posed earlier on while throwing in twists to keep the audience on their toes. It does get dangerously close to becoming “too little, too late” but the last three episodes finally deliver on the show’s promise, making for a worthwhile watch.
Even with some pacing issues as the story truly does not get going till after the halfway mark in the series, No Escape still manages to spin an intriguing thriller. From stunning cinematography taking audiences on an ocean bound adventure and strong performances from Abigail Lawrie and Jay Ryan, No Escape makes for a good watch if you are looking for the equivalent of a beach read thriller.