The critics have heaped praise upon actor Sean Penn in the biopic Milk, leading Hollywood watchers to suggest he may be nominated for an Oscar.

Milk opens in the US on November 26th and in the UK in January.

“The show belongs squarely to Penn,” said Variety‘s Todd McCarthy.

“Made to more closely resemble Milk via an elongated nose, which also makes his face look narrower, the actor socks over his characterisation of a man he’s made to seem, above all, a really sweet guy, but who crucially possessed the fearlessness and toughness to be a highly successful political motivator, agitator and, ultimately, figurehead of a movement.

“Penn’s Harvey is a man with a ready laugh, alive to the moment, open to life regardless of neuroses and past tragedies, and acutely aware of one’s limited time on Earth.

“The explosive anger and fury often summoned by Penn in his work is nowhere to be seen, replaced by a geniality that is as welcome as it is unexpected.”

The Hollywood Reporter praised Sean Penn’s “extraordinary depth and wisdom.”

Milk is the first great film to look at civil rights from the perspective of the gay movement.”

Directed by Academy Award nominee Gus Van Sant, Milk stars Josh Brolin, recently seen in the award-winning Coen brothers film No Country for Old Men, as Milk’s nemesis Dan White.

James Franco, best known for his role in the Spiderman films, plays Milk’s longterm partner Scott Smith.

Van Sant, nominated for an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, also directed My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy and Only Cowgirls Get The Blues.

Harvey Milk was probably the first out gay male politician in American history.

Known during his lifetime as “The Mayor of Castro Street,” he is a political icon among gay activists for his ability to build the LGBT community into a grassroots political force.

Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

In his 11 months in office he sponsored a gay rights bill and helped to defeat a proposition that would have seen openly gay and lesbian teachers sacked.

He was gunned down at City Hall by Dan White, a disgruntled former Supervisor, on November 27th 1978.

Milk was recently honoured with a bust on permanent display in San Francisco City Hall, a rare accolade for someone who never held the position of Mayor.