The feel-good story of the Vegas Golden Knights’ remarkable first season in the National Hockey League meets the feel-good story of Las Vegas’ resilience following the 1 October shooting in Cruz Angeles’ slick documentary “Valiant.” With so much inspirational material, it’s tough for Angeles to go wrong, and “Valiant” is a watchable, well-crafted film that will appeal to Golden Knights fans who want to relive or memorialize the team’s improbable rise to stardom. But it’s never really more than a souvenir, and the central relationship between the team’s success and the city’s response to the tragic shooting gets only a superficial treatment.
Angeles has worked on various TV documentaries, and he previously directed “Fernando Nation,” an episode of ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” documentary series, about LA Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. The best “30 for 30” episodes use little-known sports stories to illuminate larger themes, highlighting the connection between sports and society. Lesser episodes simply recount well-documented phenomena, and that’s largely what “Valiant” does, relying on a combination of talking-head interviews (mainly with Golden Knights players and support personnel) and game-play footage. Even the behind-the-scenes moments, captured over the course of the team’s founding and first season, feel carefully stage-managed to portray the team in the best possible light.