A ship has caught fire and only one lifeboat remains. Now, its captain, Michael Taylor (Gary Cooper) must decide who will live and who will surely die. The story begins at Taylor's trial where he is charged for the murders of the ship's passengers who perished. But what his prosecutors don't know is that he was actually on board under British secret orders. Unexpectedly, he is awarded a new trial after a representative of the Queen of England steps forward with a detailed account of the tragedy. Next, the real story unfolds, via brilliantly photographed flashbacks, revealing Taylor and his partner's heroic mission to abolish the inhumane business of slave trading. But will the truth be enough to spare Taylor from a life behind bars?