En 1988 Augusto Pinochet, general retirado y senador vitalicio de Chile, visita Gran Bretaña. El juez Baltasar Garzón solicitó su detención y enjuiciamiento. Pinochet permaneció detenido hasta que el gobierno británico le permitió regresar a su país.
Having been forced from Chile by Pinochet thirty years previous, Patricio Guzman recounts Pinochet's arrest, extradition trial in Britain and his own brush with Pinochet. Guzman sets out to recreate a document that proves that the former military strong man was the war criminal a Spanish court accused him of being. He interviews victims of Pinochet's reign of terror, both survivors of medieval torture tactics and relatives of the almost 1200 "disappeared." As Guzman documents, Pinochet was sent home by British Prime Minister Tony Blair for health reasons after 503 days of detainment, only to find himself facing a Chilean court and house arrest at home.