Zero Dark Thirty

Maya is a CIA analyst tasked with finding the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In 2003, she is stationed at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. She and CIA officer Dan attend the black site interrogations of Ammar, a detainee with suspected links to several of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks and who is subjected to approved torture interrogation techniques. Ammar provides unreliable information on a suspected attack in Saudi Arabia, but reveals the name of the personal courier for bin Laden, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Other detainee intelligence connects courier traffic by Abu Ahmed between Abu Faraj al-Libbi (Yoav Levi) and bin Laden. In 2005, Faraj denies knowing about a courier named Abu Ahmed; Maya interprets this as an attempt by Faraj to conceal the importance of Abu Ahmed.

In 2009, during the Camp Chapman attack, Maya’s fellow officer and friend Jessica (Jennifer Ehle) is killed by a suicide bomber. A case manager that liked the Abu Ahmed lead shares with her an interrogation with a Jordanian detainee claiming to have buried Abu Ahmed in 2001. Maya learns what the CIA was told five years earlier: Ibrahim Sayeed traveled under the name of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Realizing her lead may be alive, Maya contacts Dan, now a senior officer at the CIA headquarters. She speculates that the CIA’s photograph of Ahmed is that of his brother, Habeeb, who was killed in Afghanistan. Maya says that their beards and native clothes make the brothers look alike, explaining Ammar’s account of Ahmed’s “death” in 2001.

A Kuwaiti prince trades the phone number of Sayeed’s mother for a Lamborghini Gallardo Bicolore. Maya and her CIA team in Pakistan use electronic methods to eventually pinpoint a caller in a moving vehicle who exhibits behaviors that delay confirmation of his identity (which Maya calls tradecraft, thus confirming that the subject is likely a senior courier). They track the vehicle to a large urban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, near the Pakistan Military Academy. After gunmen attack Maya while she is in her vehicle, she is recalled to Washington, D.C. as her cover is believed blown.

The CIA puts the compound under surveillance, but obtains no conclusive identification of bin Laden. The President’s National Security Advisor tasks the CIA with creating a plan to capture or kill bin Laden. Before briefing President Barack Obama, the CIA director, (James Gandolfini) , holds a meeting of his senior officers, who estimate that bin Laden is 60–80% likely to be in the compound. Maya, also in the meeting, places her confidence at 100%.

On May 2, 2011, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment flies two stealth helicopters from Afghanistan into Pakistan with members of DEVGRU and the CIA’s SAC/SOG to raid the compound. The SEALs gain entry and kill a number of people in the compound, including whom they believe is bin Laden. At a U.S. base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Maya confirms the identity of the corpse.

She boards a military transport back to the U.S., the sole passenger. She is asked where she wants to go and begins to cry.