An American (William Holden) serves in the British navy's tugboat rescue program. Since WWII has just started, this consists of rescuing many ships attacked by German submarines and planes. An old friend (Trevor Howard), also serving in the program, gives him the key to his flat and makes him promise to take care of his fiancee (Sophia Loren) if anything should happen to him. It seems that key, however, has been passed through many hands. Based on the Jan De Hartog novel, the film's intriguing premise is compromised by its rather overwrought execution. The director Carol Reed doesn't seem engaged with the material and there's a sense of repetitiveness about the project. Howard is dispatched fairly early but his performance was impressive enough to win him a BAFTA best actor award. Loren, on the other hand, seems stifled by her part. Why cast one of the sexiest, most vital of movie actresses and frump her down for a glum "kitchen sink" performance when Maria Schell or Mai Zetterling were available? Oswald Morris's B&W CinemaScope photography is quite nice but Malcolm Arnold's score, save for a charming accompaniment to a routine tugboat exercise, is heavy handed. With Oscar Homolka, Kieron Moore, Bernard Lee and Bryan Forbes.