The story is set during the Japanese occupation of China in World War II. Mrs. Mak is ostensibly an idle housewife who enjoys Mahjong and shopping. In fact, her name is Wong Chia-chi and she's a member of a Chinese Nationalist resistance cell who has infiltrated the household of Mr. Yee, a high-ranking member of the pro-Japanese puppet regime, in order to become his mistress and draw him into a trap. But Mr. Yee is a terminally paranoid man and stays on his guard at all times.
This film contains examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The original short story picks up just before Wong's last meeting with Yee. The How We Got Here narrative is considerably more fleshed out in the film.
- The in story timeline also received an additional year.
- Broken Pedestal: Wong was in love with her resistance leader for years. By the conclusion of the movie, she is disgusted with him for using her and throwing her life away with the rest.
- Les Collaborateurs: Mr. Yee and the rest of the pro-Japanese puppet regime.
- Cyanide Pill: Wong Chia-chi is given one when she joins the resistance cell in occupied Shanghai. When she is about to face capture by the Japanese, she reaches for it but decides to allow herself to be captured alive.
- Downer Ending
- Honey Trap: Basically the entire plot.
- How We Got Here: The story begins as the assassination plot is nearing completion, only to jump back to four years earlier.
- Mercy Kill: When we first see Mr. Yee, he orders an underling to finish off a prisoner he has just finished interrogating, on the grounds that the Japanese didn't specify they wanted him alive. He says "give him a quick one" implying that by killing the man now they are saving him from more torture at the hands of the Japanese, who would eventually kill him themselves.
- Mirror Scare: Chia-chi closes a window, and she spots the reflection of Mr. Yee in it—he had been sitting in a corner of the room all along, but she hadn't seen him.
- "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization
- Properly Paranoid: Mr. Yee considers everyone a potential enemy, and he's right.
- Rasputinian Death: Tsao, Mr. Yee's underling in Hong Kong. His messy and protracted murder is the reason Wong Chia-chi splits up from the group until three years later.
- La Résistance: The underground resistance cell that Chia-chi and her former classmates join in occupied Shanghai.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The main difference between La Résistance and the Japanese occupiers seems to be that the Japanese are in power. Truth in Television supports it.
- Training Montage: Wong Chia-chi's training in the basics of spycraft.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The plot is given away at the last moment by Wong Chia-chi, leading to the execution of her and pretty much the whole of La Resistance outside of the cold-blooded leader. All to protect the life of the rapist thug bastard she fell in love with and who, given the state of Japan's military fortunes by the end of the movie, is living on borrowed time anyway.
- Slow Clap: At the end of the premiere of the group's patriotic play, one person rises and shouts "China must not die!" Soon everyone else stands and joins in.