Broken Arrow (1996 film)

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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 are pilots in the USAF who are tasked with a secret mission to test a new bomber. During the test flight, Deakins attacks Hale and ejects him from the plane. Deakins then releases the two unarmed nuclear bombs the plane was carrying and ejects himself, leaving the plane to crash into a Utah state park after transmitting a radio message that 'Hale's lost it'.

A USAF Pararescue team is dispatched to recover the bombs. The team locates the bombs but are ambushed by gunmen before they can secure the weapons. One of the team members is a mole for Deakins, named Kelly. He transmits a fake report of a radiation leak, causing the rescue teams to evacuate and seal the area while also allowing Deakins to steal the bombs. Deakins plans to use the bombs to extort money from the government by threatening to detonate them in a populated area.

Meanwhile Hale, who survived the ejection, is detained by Park Ranger Terry Carmichael, who had been investigating unusual events in the park and witnessed the plane crash. Hale convinces her to help him track down Deakins and the missing nuclear bombs. Deakins and his mercenaries attempt to hunt down Hale and kill him, but their helicopter is shot down by Hale and they are forced to transport the bombs in Humvees.

Hale and Carmichael manage to steal the Humvee with the bombs and escape to an abandoned copper mine. Hale moves the bombs into the mine and attempts to disable them. However, Hale's attempt triggers a booby trap that Deakins installed, arming the bomb and starting the countdown timer. Unable to abort the detonation, Hale and Carmichael take the bomb down an abandoned mine shaft hoping the mine will contain the blast and fallout. Deakins arrives and steals the second bomb from Hale. Hale and Carmichael escape from the mine just before detonation. The EMP from the blast disables an approaching helicopter containing a Nuclear Emergency Support Team, allowing Deakins and his team to escape with the remaining bomb. Carmichael and Hale track the mercenaries to a motorboat they're using to transport the bomb down a nearby river. Carmichael becomes trapped and is forced to hide on the boat while Hale is rescued by the Air Force.

Hale deduces that Deakins intends to use a train to transport the nuclear bomb to Denver, Colorado. Colonel Max Wilkins is ordered to rescue Hale but decides to defy his superiors in order to help Hale locate and retrieve the bomb. Stowing away on the train, Carmichael tries to sabotage the bomb but is caught by Deakins, who arms the weapon. Hale arrives by helicopter and attacks the train, saving Carmichael from being thrown off the train by Deakins. A gunfight ensues, resulting in most of the mercenaries being killed but the USAF helicopter also crashes into a bridge, killing Wilkins and the crew. Hale sabotages a helicopter that Deakins planned to escape on, ensuring that Deakins and his men cannot evacuate before the bomb detonates. One of Deakins' men, unaware of the copter being rigged to blow, turns on the engine, causing an explosion that incinerates him and also causing another man to be thrown off the train.

Deakins uses a remote control to disarm the bomb, but becomes enraged and resets the countdown timer to five minutes before restarting the countdown. Kelly, who is the last henchman standing, refuses to die and holds Deakin at gunpoint. Their standoff is interrupted when Hale distracts them and then kicks Kelly out of the train, making him fall to his death. Hale confronts Deakins and demands he disarm the bomb while Carmichael uncouples the train cars to stop the car with the bomb from reaching its destination. Hale and Deakins engage in a brutal hand-to-hand fight with Deakins easily gaining the upper hand. Carmichael is shot at by the train conductor, when she returns fire the conductor falls on the train brake and engages it.

Hale manages to overcome Deakins and seizes the remote from him. Hale sees the stopped train ahead and realizes they are going to slam into it. He jumps out of the freight car door while hitting the cancel button, stopping the bomb from detonating. Carmichael jumps off the train as the two sections slam together. Hale is thrown clear of the collision but Deakins is impaled and killed by the tip of the bomb as it is ejected out of the train car. Hale and Carmichael reunite amidst the wreckage and embrace while formally introducing themselves to each other.



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. Also credited for additional music are Zimmer-regulars Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell.

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.
  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.

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