Before entering this story of a battle between the ostensible forces of good over evil, viewers should know that a lightship is a floating lighthouse, anchored in dangerous waters to warn other ships away. The German-American Captain Miller (Klaus Maria Brandauer) is in charge of one such lightship and is haunted by the memory of leaving some Americans to die at sea in World War II while he chose to go after a German U-boat. Miller was free of all wrong-doing technically, but he cannot forget the results of his decision. One night, with his son illegally on board, Miller takes on the sailors of another boat before a severe storm hits -- a mistake. The rescued men are modern-day pirates, gang members out to meet another ship and pick up some illicit cargo. From the moment they are taken on board, the thugs and their leader Caspary (Robert Duvall) are at war with the crew and Captain Miller for control of the lightship. This story was adapted from a novella by Siegfried Lenz, and both Brandauer and Duvall give stellar performances in their dueling roles.