Broken Arrow (1996 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Broken Arrow
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Woo
Written byGraham Yost
Produced by
CinematographyPeter Levy
Edited by
Music byHans Zimmer
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

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.


Major Vic "Deak" Deakins and Captain Riley Hale, pilots in the United States Air Force (USAF), are flying a B-2 stealth bomber with two B83 nuclear bombs on a secret exercise. After evading Air Force radar, Deakins suddenly attacks Hale and ejects him from the plane. Deakins releases the bombs without activating them and then reports that Hale has gone rogue. He ejects, leaving the plane to crash in a national park in Utah.

A USAF team led by Chief Master Sergeant Rhodes is sent to find the missing warheads, declared as a "Broken Arrow" situation. The team locates the warheads in a canyon, but is ambushed by mercenaries. Rhodes tries to disable the warheads, but is killed by the other search team survivor, Master Sergeant Kelly, who is a mole for Deakins. Deakins arrives with Pritchett, the mercenaries' financier. They plan to blackmail the US government with the threat of detonating the warhead in a populated area.

Hale is arrested by park ranger Terry Carmichael. He convinces her to help him track down Deakins. Deakins's mercenaries commandeer a search-and-rescue helicopter to kill Hale, but Hale and Carmichael manage to bring it down. The loss of the helicopter forces Deakins's men to continue in Humvees.

Hale and Carmichael carjack the Humvee carrying the warheads, escaping to a nearby abandoned copper mine. Hale starts to disable one, but Deakins reveals via radio that he has programmed it so that Hale's attempts to disarm it will cause the bomb to activate. Hale and Carmichael take the armed warhead down the shaft, where the mine is deep enough to contain the nuclear blast. Deakins's team arrives and secures the second warhead. After a gun battle deep in the mine, Deakins shortens the countdown of the armed warhead while leaving Hale and Carmichael trapped.

They escape via an underground river just before the bomb detonates. The resulting nuclear electromagnetic pulse disables an approaching NEST helicopter, allowing Deakins to escape. Deakins then kills Pritchett, having grown tired of his complaints and for straying from the plan. Carmichael and Hale track the mercenaries to a motorboat used for transporting the warhead down the river. While trying to steal the boat, Carmichael is forced to hide onboard, while military forces rescue Hale.

Hale deduces that Deakins intends to use a train to transport the warhead. Colonel Max Wilkins disobeys orders to help Hale. Stowing away on the train, Carmichael tries to sabotage the warhead, but is caught by Deakins, who arms the bomb. Catching up on a helicopter, Hale saves Carmichael before Deakins can throw her off the train. A gunfight ensues, killing Wilkins and causing the helicopter to crash and most of the mercenaries die in the aftermath.

Deakins has prepared a remote control that can either disarm or detonate the warhead and gets ready to leave on his own getaway helicopter. Hale sabotages the helicopter's fuel pump, causing it to explode and leaving Deakins and Kelly stranded with the ticking bomb. With his plan falling apart, Deakins decides to shorten the countdown timer out of spite. Kelly orders Deakins at gunpoint to disarm the weapon. Hale sneaks up on them during their bickering and kicks Kelly out of the boxcar to his death before engaging in a gun battle with Deakins.

Carmichael detaches the section of the train with the bomb, but gets into a shootout with the engineer. The latter is killed and falls on the train brakes, allowing the detached boxcars to catch up. 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. Carmichael also jumps from the train before the detached boxcars caught up. As the detached boxcars slam into the front half, Deakins gets up. The hurtling warhead flies through him into a stack of oil barrels, causing the train to derail and the barrels to explode. Deakins also dies during the explosion.

After the explosion, Hale finds the warhead. Carmichael tells him to turn around, and they embrace. They formally introduce each other for the first time.



The original music score was composed by Hans Zimmer. An expanded double-disc limited set of the music score was released by La-La Land Records in February 2011.

The score is considered to be one of Zimmer's best action scores by fans and film critics. The opening track, "Rope-A-Dope", also known as "Deakin's Theme", has been widely used in other films and media, including Scream 2 and Speed 2.[2][3][4] The famous riff from "Rope-A-Dope" was played by legendary guitarist Duane Eddy, who Zimmer brought in for the entire Broken Arrow scoring session.[5]


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 Carmichael 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 1995, 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 photography was completed on August 28, 1995.

John Travolta was originally the choice to portray Riley Hale (finally played by Christian Slater), but was chosen instead to portray Major Vic Deakins.


Broken Arrow was No. 1 at the North American box office on its opening weekend grossing $15.6 million.[6] 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.[7]


Based on 35 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 54% of critics gave Broken Arrow a positive review (19 "Fresh"; 16 "Rotten"), with an average rating of 5.7 out of 10. The site's consensus states: "John Woo adds pyrotechnic glaze to John Travolta's hammy performance, but fans may find Broken Arrow to be a dispiritingly disposable English-language entry for the action auteur."[8] 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.[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[10]

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.[11] Ebert called it "a slow, talky action thriller that plays like a homage to the Fallacy of the Talking Killer." This fallacy "occurs when all the bad guy has to do is pull the trigger, and his problems are over. Instead, he talks, and talks, until his target escapes from his predicament." 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".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Broken Arrow". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  2. ^ "Hans Zimmer tracks". Han Zimmer.
  3. ^ "Review of Soundtrack for Broken Arrow".
  4. ^ Burlingame, Jon (December 27, 1997). "Why Get a New Score If a Used One Will Do?". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ "Broken Arrow score notes". From The Balcony. 24 April 2014.
  6. ^ 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". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
  7. ^ "Broken Arrow (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  8. ^ "Broken Arrow (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  9. ^ "Broken Arrow Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  10. ^ "CinemaScore".
  11. ^ Berardinelli, James (February 22, 1999). "A Thumb Falls Silent: A Short Tribute to Gene Siskel". Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 9, 1996). "Review of Broken Arrow". Retrieved September 6, 2019.

External links[edit]