At one point in the film, after a female colleague is killed in an attack on a CIA compound in Afghanistan, Maya describes her purpose in near-messianic terms: "I believe I was spared so I could finish the job."
Colleagues said the on-screen depiction captures the woman's dedication and combative temperament.
"She's not Miss Congeniality, but that's not going to find Osama bin Laden," said a former CIA associate, who added that the attention from filmmakers sent waves of envy through the agency's ranks.
"The agency is a funny place, very insular," the former official said. "It's like middle-schoolers with clearances."
The woman is not allowed to talk to journalists, and the CIA declined to answer questions about her, except to stress that the bin Laden mission involved an extensive team. "Over the course of a decade, hundreds of analysts, operators and many others played key roles in the hunt," said agency spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood.
The internal frictions are an unseemly aspect of the ongoing fallout from a mission that is otherwise regarded as as one of the signal successes in CIA history.
The movie has been a source of controversy since it was revealed that the filmmakers — including director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal — were given extensive access to officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA.
Members of Congress have called for investigations into whether classified information was shared. The movie's release was delayed amid criticism that it amounted to a re-election ad for President Barack Obama.
The film's publicity materials say that Maya "is based on a real person," but the filmmakers declined to elaborate. U.S. officials acknowledged that Boal met with Maya's real-life counterpart and other CIA officers, typically in the presence of someone from the agency's public affairs office. The character is played by Jessica Chastain.