"The British are coming!" famously declared screenwriter Colin Welland in 1982 when he collected his Oscar for Chariots Of Fire.

More than 20 years later, his prophecy seems to be coming true.

Slumdog Millionaire was the toast of Tinseltown in 2008, garnering almost every trophy in sight, and now The King's Speech is poised to do the same, and win Colin Firth a well-deserved Academy Award into the bargain.

Last year, the British actor was cruelly denied a golden statuette for his revelatory performance as a suicidal gay lecturer in Tom Ford's directorial debut, A Single Man.

This year, he should definitely practise his self-deprecating acceptance speech for this heartrending portrayal of King George VI in Tom Hooper's majestic comedy drama.

Firth is matched laugh for laugh by Geoffrey Rush in imperious form, and the cream of homegrown acting talent provides illustrious support, including Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill.

The King's Speech is an impeccably crafted chapter from recent British history that charts a remarkable and unlikely friendship between two men from opposite sides of the class divide.

When King George V (Michael Gambon) dies in 1936, eldest son Edward (Guy Pearce) ascends to the throne, but his reign is shrouded in scandal as he continues to romance American divorcee, Wallis Simpson (Eve Best).

Love triumphs over duty and Edward abdicates, forcing youngest son Albert (Colin Firth) into the spotlight.

However, the newly crowned King George VI suffers from a crippling stammer, which renders him unable to deliver public addresses.

With war imminent and the country looking to its King for leadership, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) approaches unconventional Australian-born speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) on the recommendation of a friend.

"She said your antipodean methods were both unconventional and controversial. Those are two of my favourite words," smiles Elizabeth, persuading Lionel to help her husband overcome his fears.

The King's Speech is a crowd-pleasing, heart-tugging gem, seen through the eyes of a man who is frightened to say a word for fear of what might – or might not – come out.

David Seidler's script elegantly dissects the relationship between monarch and commoner, creating memorable exchanges that provide the film with huge laughs and a strong emotional heartbeat.

Firth delivers the performance of his life, battling valiantly against his condition, while Rush is hysterical as the linguist who refuses any concessions to his king.

"My castle, my rules," he maintains.

Their double-act is glorious, including an unforgettable barrage of expletives in the name of therapy.

"Do you know the f word?" asks Lionel.

"F...f...fornication?" replies Albert nervously.

The finale is guaranteed to have audiences cheering and sobbing with joy.

If The King's Speech is a sign of things to come in 2011 then it will be a very, very happy new year.

Kim Leadbeater. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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