Broken Arrow (1996) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Terrorists steal nuclear warheads from the U.S. military but don't count on a pilot and park ranger spoiling their plans.

  • "Broken Arrow" is the term used to describe a nuclear device that has been lost. In this movie, two nuclear missiles are stolen by rogue US pilot Deakins, but hot on his trail is his co-pilot Hale and a Park Ranger, Terry. The action takes place in Utah's canyon country; a high stakes game of cat and mouse.

  • Major Vic Deakins and Captain Riley Hale are Air Force pilots sent on a mission to fly a B-3 bomber carrying two live nuclear warheads to test for radiation emissions over a desert in Utah. The mission is messed up when Vic tries to kill Riley, and the airplane crashes in the desert. The warheads were made to survive crashes. Before the crash, Vic and Riley parachuted off of the airplane. Vic and his right hand man Emmitt Kelly (Howie Long) steal the two warheads, and they plan to detonate the two warheads in Salt Lake City unless they receive $250,000,000 from the government. Lost in the desert, Riley is found by park ranger Terry Carmichael, who decides to help him find Vic and Emmitt. Terry and Riley soon discover that Vic plans to send the warheads to Salt Lake City on a train, but Vic has only one warhead to use after one of the warheads explodes inside of an abandoned copper mine that Vic was using as a hideout. Then Terry and Riley discover that Vic is actually sending the remaining warhead to an even bigger target -- Denver, Colorado, not Salt Lake City. Can they stop the train before it reaches Denver?

  • Major Vic Deakins and Commander Riley Hale are training and combat partners and good friends. One day, they receive orders to perform another training exercise with a stealth bomber armed with real nuclear missiles. Then, in a flash, Deakins turns on Hale and crashes the bomber. The next morning, a team of soldiers, lead by a man named Emmitt Kelly, search for the lost Nuclear missiles. But, Kelly then kills off his own team and takes the missiles to Deakins. What Deakins is planning to do is demand the government to give him a promotion and money. But, it wasn't long at all before hale regained consciousness. He must stop Deakins from using the nuclear missiles to blow up the west with a help of a park ranger Teresa Charmichile.

  • Major Deakins is a tough U.S. Air Force pilot who is assigned to a flight mission with 'nice-guy' Captain Hale. They are to fly the B3 Stealth Bomber on wargame maneuvers over Utah loaded with two live nuclear weapons. Deakins, having been continually passed over for promotion, sells out his country and arranges to use the thermonuclear warheads under his command to blackmail the U.S. government. The only thing standing in his way is his old buddy, Captain Hale....

  • A corrupt Air Force major intentionally crash lands a U.S. plane in the middle of the desert and holds two nuclear warheads for ransom. The only ones who can stop him are his co-pilot, a younger Air Force captain, and an ambitious U.S. park ranger patrolling the area.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Major Vic "Deak" Deakins (John Travolta) and Captain Riley Hale (Christian Slater) are pilots in the United States Air Force, stationed in the southwest United States. After a sparring match between the two where Deak also coaches Hale on how to dodge a blow from an opponent, the pilots are assigned to a top secret exercise on a B-3 Stealth Bomber (a fictional advanced version of the actual B-2 Spirit stealth bomber) with two B-83 nuclear bombs on board. Deakins and Hale take off from Whiteman Air Force Base carrying the two live nuclear weapons on an evening exercise over Utah.

    After successfully evading Air Force radar during the exercise, Deakins begins a friendly conversation to distract and shoot Hale. A struggle ensues, ending when Deakins ejects Hale. He then releases the bombs from the plane without detonating them. When the Air Force base regains radar contact with the aircraft, Deakins reports, "Hale's lost it. I'm punching out", and ejects, leaving the plane to crash into a mountainside over the Utah canyons.

    A search and rescue team is sent to recover the warheads. They do not find the warheads in the plane's payload bay wreckage and report a "Broken Arrow", a situation wherein nuclear weapons are missing. The team later locates the warheads in a canyon but are killed while recovering them by mercenaries, including Sgt. Kelly (Howie Long), a corrupt member of the team. Deakins arrives moments later and plots his next move with Pritchett (Bob Gunton), the operation's financier.

    Meanwhile, Hale survives the ejection and is found by Park Ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) whom, after a brief stand-off, he convinces to help him track down Deakins and foil his plot. After recovering the weapons from a hijacked Humvee and escaping to a nearby copper mine, Hale attempts to disable them using a safety feature which would render them unusable by intentionally entering the arming code incorrectly. Deakins, however, had anticipated this scenario, and Hale inadvertently arms the warhead.

    Finding himself unable to disarm the warhead, Hale decides to place the unarmed weapon deep in the abandoned mine to prevent them from being used elsewhere. Deakins arrives and secures the unarmed warhead, leaving Hale and Terry to die in the upcoming explosion. A helicopter chases Deakins, as the mercenaries proceed with their mission to blackmail the government with the threat of detonating the warhead in a civilian area. Pritchett berates him for allowing the helicopter to give chase, and Deakins, fed up with his complaining, kills Pritchett by crushing his throat with a flashlight. Hale and Terry escape from the mine via an underground river just before the bomb detonates. The bomb's EMP disables and subsequently destroys the NEST Team sent in to recover the warheads when their helicopter crashes and explodes. Terry and Hale track Deakins to a motorboat to be used for transporting the remaining warhead. While trying to steal the boat, Terry is forced to hide on board while Deakins moves the warhead. Military forces find Hale and arrest him, believing Deak's last transmission that Hale had lost his mind on the bomber. Hale is able to convince them otherwise.

    Hale deduces that Deakins intends to move the warhead on board a train and sets off in a helicopter to find the train and hunt down the remaining mercenaries. Deak had left an ID tag from a Salt Lake City hospital on the boat he'd used to escape. Believing that Deak will try to hide the bomb in the radiology department of the hospital, task forces are sent to Salt Lake City to intercept Deak if he arrives there. Hale thinks that Deak is trying a classic "rope-a-dope"; planting the Salt Lake ID to send the pursuit in the wrong direction. Hale suggests that since they have Salt Lake secured, they should check out Denver to the east. Hale's hunch is right and the pursuit finds Deak's train heading east.

    Aboard the train, Hale finds Terry, whom Deakins has tried, unsuccessfully, to threaten into arming the weapon. A gunfight ensues in which the helicopter that Hale was on with Colonel Wilkins (Delroy Lindo) is destroyed, and Wilkins and most of Deakins' mercenaries are killed. With his own helicopter sabotaged by Hale and his plan falling apart, Deakins decides to detonate the nuke early. Kelly, realizing they will have no chance to get away in time, holds Deakins at gunpoint and demands he disarm the weapon. As the train passes over a viaduct, Hale leaps into the boxcar and kicks Kelly out to his death below. Terry detaches the rear section of the train (with the bomb) from the front, but soon gets into a shootout with the engineer, resulting in the engineer falling on the train brakes and causing the train to stop. However, the detached boxcars continue to coast at high speed. Deakins, still in possession of a remote that can either disarm or detonate the bomb instantly, forces Hale to drop his gun and challenges him to a hand-to-hand fight. Hale uses his greater speed to match Deakins' strength, ultimately winning their rematch from the night before. Hale leaps out of the train at the last second with the weapon's remote control and disarms it. As he does so, the detached boxcars slam into the halted front half of the train. The impact from the collision propels the disarmed warhead into Deakins' chest, and the entire train derails, exploding in a fireball, incinerating Deakins.

    Hale survives and finds a 20-dollar bill fluttering on a twig in the debris - the same 20-dollar bill Deakins had won from him earlier during their boxing practice - plus the nuclear warhead, damaged but intact. He then finds Terry and they formally introduce themselves to each other amidst the wreckage.

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