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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Zero Dark Thirty can be found here.
'Zero Dark Thirty' is military slang for an unspecified time in the early hours of the morning before dawn. The relevance of this term to the film is that the raid on Osama bin Laden's quarters was executed between midnight and two o'clock in the morning on May 2, 2011.
The Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA and FBI combined. It has a controversial reputation for allegedly pursuing its own agenda towards Islamic terrorists independent of the Pakistani government, supposedly aiding them when it suits its purpose. They have been accused of knowing of Bin-Laden's whereabouts and protecting him but this has never been proven. The attitude of the Pakistani government, military and ISI to Bin-Laden and how much they knew is still a matter of controversy.
Because the house was less than a mile from the Pakistani military academy, Pakistan's equivalent of Sandhurst/West Point. Therefore military helicopter flights overhead were not necessarily unusual, they could have put it down to an army night exercise.
Following 9/11 the US was desperate for Americans who could speak Middle Eastern languages. It is possible they could have recruited her directly as she may have been fluent having previously lived in the region or learned them from an acquaintance (boyfriend, stepfather etc). Alternatively Maya could have meant that she joined the military straight from high school and then went on to the CIA.
SSE is Sensitive Site Exploitation. NATO forces in Afghanistan developed the technique of taking pictures and gathering weapons, documents, computer files etc from the aftermath of raids in order to disprove any later claims that the terrorists they had killed were unarmed civilians. It also provided valuable intelligence; terrorists the world over are notorious for keeping extensive records for everything they do. Britain made progress against the IRA in the 1920s because the security forces captured so many of IRA leader Michael Collins' documents they had to create an entire department to read them all. In Vietnam the Allies captured up to half a million documents a month from the Viet Cong allowing them to anticipate and largely thwart the famous Tet offensive. Killing Osama Bin-Laden himself was not nearly as important as capturing the huge number of records on his organisation he kept in the house.
Yes and no, all the attacks depicted in the film are based on real events but they are strung together as a connected narrative for the sake of the story, e.g., Maya being in the Marriott at the time of the bombing, which they were not in real life. The scene where the CIA agents in Pakistan are accosted by two armed men on motorbikes is based on a genuine incident but in real life the CIA officer killed them both.
Because he was offering them vital intelligence that they had been seeking for nearly a decade. Although they were suspicious, it was simply too good an opportunity to pass up, and considered it worth the risk.
She is a composite character based on many real CIA agents involved in the hunt for Bin Laden. However in his book 'No Easy Day' former SEAL Mark Bassionette mentions a female CIA agent he refers to by the pseudonym 'Jen' who worked with the SEAL team on the mission. Just like Maya 'Jen' considers the probability of Bin-Laden being in the house at 100% whilst others are more cautious, she observes the mission from the control room, is there to meet the SEALs when they return with Bin-Laden's corpse and bursts out crying afterwards. Zero Dark Thirty was in production before Bin Laden's death and before 'No Easy Day' was published so 'Jen' is a likely inspiration but not categorically 'Maya'.
The focus of the scene was that there were three WOMEN in the house meaning that there had to be at least three men, one of whom was never seen. Nothing said that there couldn't be more than three.
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