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Broken Arrow is a 1996 American action thriller film directed by John Woo, written by Graham Yost, and starring John Travolta, Christian Slater, and Samantha Mathis.[1] The film's main themes include the theft of two American nuclear weapons, the attempts of U.S. military authorities to recover them, and the feud between Travolta and Slater's characters. The film was a commercial success despite mixed reviews.

Broken Arrow
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Woo
Produced byBill Badalato
Terence Chang
Mark Gordon
Written byGraham Yost
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyPeter Levy
Edited byJoe Hutshing
Steve Mirkovich
John Wright
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
February 9, 1996 (1996-02-09)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million
Box office$150.2 million



Major Vic Deakins (John Travolta) and Captain Riley Hale (Christian Slater), pilots in the United States Air Force, are assigned to a secret exercise flying a B-3 Stealth Bomber (a fictional iteration of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber) with two B83 nuclear bombs on board. After successfully evading Air Force radar, Deakins suddenly attacks Hale and ejects him out of the plane. Deakins then releases the bombs without detonating them and reports that Hale has gone rogue. He then ejects from the plane, leaving it to crash.

A USAF search and rescue team led by Chief Master Sergeant Sam Rhodes (Vondie Curtis-Hall) is sent to recover the warheads. Failing to locate them, they report a "Broken Arrow", a situation wherein nuclear weapons are missing. Next morning the search team locates the warheads in a canyon but is ambushed by mercenaries. Rhodes tries to disable the warhead but is killed by the other survivor, Master Sergeant Kelly (Howie Long), who was serving as a mole for Deakins. Deakins arrives moments later and plots his next move with Pritchett (Bob Gunton), the mercenaries' financier. They plan to blackmail the US government with the threat of detonating the warhead in a populated area.

Hale, who survived the ejection, is almost arrested by park ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis), who had been investigating the unusual events in the park. He convinces her to help him track down Deakins. Deakins' mercenaries commandeer the USAF search and rescue helicopter to kill Hale, but Hale and Terry manage to bring it down. The loss of the helicopter forces Deakins' men to transport the warheads with Hummer trucks.

Hale and Terry carjack the Hummer with the warheads, escaping to a nearby abandoned copper mine, where Hale attempts to disable one, only for Deakins to reveal he has programmed it so that Hale’s attempts to disarm it will cause the bomb to activate. They then take the armed warhead down the shaft where the mine is deep enough to contain the nuclear blast. However, before they can bring down the second warhead, Deakins' team arrives and secures it. After a gun battle deep in the mines, Deakins shortens the countdown of the armed warhead while leaving Hale and Terry trapped, but they escape via an underground river just before the bomb detonates. The bomb's nuclear electromagnetic pulse disables the NEST helicopter, allowing Deakins to escape. Deakins then kills Pritchett, having grown tired of his complaints, and his compromise to the mission. Terry and Hale track the mercenaries to a motorboat used for transporting the warhead down the river. While trying to steal the boat, Terry is forced to hide onboard and military forces rescue Hale.

Hale deduces that Deakins intends to use a train to transport the warhead and Hale’s superior Colonel Max Wilkins (Delroy Lindo) decides to disobey orders to help Hale. Stowing on the train, Terry tries to sabotage the warhead but is caught by Deakins and is forced to enter the arming code. Catching up on a USAF helicopter, Hale saves Terry before Deakins can throw her off the train. A gunfight ensues and the USAF helicopter crashes after Wilkins is killed by Deakins, killing most of the mercenaries. Deakins has prepared a remote control that can either disarm or detonate the warhead and gets ready to depart the train on his own getaway helicopter; however, Hale's sabotage of the helicopter's fuel pump causes it to explode, leaving Deakins and Kelly without the means to get clear of the nuclear blast. With his plan falling apart, Deakins decides to arm the warhead regardless with a short countdown timer out of spite. Not wanting to die, Kelly holds Deakins at gunpoint and orders him to disarm the weapon. Hale sneaks up on them during their bickering and kicks Kelly out of the boxcar to his death, then engages in a gun battle with Deakins.

Terry detaches the section of the train with the bomb but gets into a shootout with the engineer. The latter is shot and falls on the train brakes, causing the detached boxcars to coast uncontrollably at high speed. Meanwhile, Deakins still has the remote detonator, so he forces Hale to drop his gun and challenges him to a fight. Hale eventually overpowers Deakins, acquires the remote detonator, disarms the warhead and leaps out of the train. As the detached boxcars slam into the halted front half, the warhead flies into Deakins and the entire train derails and explodes.

Hale finds Terry and the damaged warhead. The two formally introduce themselves to each other amidst the wreckage.

Cast and crewEdit


The original music score was composed by Hans Zimmer, and features guitarist Duane Eddy. An expanded double-disc limited set of the music score was released by La-La Land Records in February 2011. Also credited for additional music are Zimmer-regulars Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell.

The score is considered as one of Zimmer's best action scores among fans and critics especially for Deakins theme.[2]


Principal photography began on April 26, 1995. Some filming took place in and around the mountain areas of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Kane County, Utah. The lake scene with Hale and Terry was filmed at Lake Powell. The desert sequences were shot in the Mojave Desert near Barstow, California, and in Coconino County near Page, Arizona. The final climax scenes with Deakins and his men on the train, including the action sequence with Deakins and Hale fighting in the train car, were filmed on the privately-owned Central Montana Rail, Inc. (CM) in Fergus County between Lewistown, Montana and Denton, Montana. In July, a number of elaborate train cars were sent to the location in Lewistown, including several custom-built cars. Six weeks of filming on the forty mile track were required to capture all the stunts, helicopter action, gun battles, high falls, and special effects sequences. Production was completed on August 28, 1995.


Broken Arrow was No. 1 at the North American box office on its opening weekend grossing $15.6 million.[3] It stayed on top for a second week and ultimately had a domestic gross of $70,770,147 and an international gross of $79,500,000, for a total worldwide gross of $150,270,147.[4]


Based on 32 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 53% of critics gave Broken Arrow a positive review (17 "Fresh"; 15 "Rotten"), with an average rating of 5.8 out of 10.[5] Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 61, "generally favorable reviews" based on 21 reviews.[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

The review of this movie on Siskel & Ebert & the Movies represents the only time that Roger Ebert convinced Gene Siskel to change his mind about his final judgment of a film. Siskel initially gave the film a marginal "thumbs up" but changed it to a "thumbs down" after hearing Ebert's criticisms, and it was considered to be the worst movie of the year, calling it "cliched" and "over the top".[8] Ebert queried the "purpose of a digital readout on a bomb? Who will ever see it, except in a mad bomber movie?” and summed up the film saying that it all "comes down to two guys fighting on a burning train for a channel-surfer".[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Broken Arrow". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Brennan, Judy (February 19, 1996). "Arrow' Flies High as Oscar Nods Boost 'Babe,' 'Sense'; Box office: The action adventure is No. 1, with 'Muppet Treasure Island,' 'Happy Gilmore' dueling for second". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
  4. ^ "Broken Arrow (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  5. ^ "Broken Arrow (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  6. ^ "Broken Arrow Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  7. ^ "CinemaScore".
  8. ^ Berardinelli, James (February 22, 1999). "A Thumb Falls Silent: A Short Tribute to Gene Siskel". Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  9. ^ [1]

External linksEdit