It is May 1940 and new Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) must rally the British people.

He has his work cut out as, with the Nazis advancing across Europe and France about to fall, the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Unrecognisable beneath bald cap and prosthetics, Oldman lets rip with the oratory in this rousing World War Two biopic – but he also shows us the very human side of a political legend: the scotch-swigging grump as well as the statesman.

Oldman’s Oscar-winning turn is truly mesmerising and he gets sterling support from Kristin Scott Thomas as Winston’s stalwart wife Clemmie, Lily James as his callow young secretary and Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI.

But director Joe Wright undoes much of the good work with a totally made up scene in which Churchill takes a Tube journey just before a crucial cabinet meeting and encounters a conspicuously diverse bunch of passengers whose salt-of-the-earth pluck stiffens his resolve to fight on. The scene is so ludicrously hokey that it derails the whole movie.