Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando) is the aristocratic secret agent sent by Britain to secure a profitable Portuguese sugar cane plantation for the Crown. When he arrives, he befriends the black dockworker Jose (Evaristo Marquez) and plants revolutionary ideas in his head. Walker talks Jose into robbing a bank and builds him up as a national hero in the process. Teddy Sanchez (Renato Salvatori) is the hotel desk clerk with political aspirations who falls under Walker's spell. The blacks revolt on the night of a festival parade that allows them to be disguised and move around without suspicion. Jose turns his troops over to Teddy, who assumes control of the island. Walker returns to Britain but is summoned ten years later to stop a revolution led by Jose against the now corrupt government headed by Teddy. British troops attack the island and hundreds are killed including Teddy who is executed for treason. The sugar cane crops perish in flames when Jose mounts an attack against the British. When William offers him freedom, Jose refuses by stating "freedom is something you take for yourself." Jose is assassinated and becomes yet another martyr for the cause against colonialism. A drunk and despondent William prepares to leave the island realizing he is just as much a pawn as the men he initially incited to revolt.