It’s the sense of alienation that lingers. Like a morning haze that just never burns off, Kelly Reichardt’s latest movie Night Moves hangs over you with a slightly icy chill.

It’s creepy, unsettling and depressing, but that’s what makes it so insightful on so many levels because this is a story about moral responsibility.

It’s also a thriller that pivots on a timely premise: The exploitation of natural resources, and the point at which the common person decides to intervene.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) are two young idealists who live in the Pacific Northwest. Josh works on an organic farm and Dena has a yoga studio, but we soon learn they are pursuing other passions as well.

Josh and Dena want to make a statement. They feel the corporate world has gagged the people and forced them to swallow lies for too long. They see clear cuts. They see toxic streams and expropriated land. They see forests razed for profit and fish killed for hydroelectric expansion, and they see no one standing against it.

Reichardt doesn’t bother getting into the nitty-gritty of activist cell building and secret networks, but she eventually opens the curtains to let us see what’s really happening behind the pastoral pictures.

Josh and Dena are planning to make a bomb and blow up a dam.

To some, they are eco-terrorists. To others, they are freedom fighters. But for Reichardt, they are just people, which is why Night Moves turns out to be such an interesting philosophical essay on the nature of responsibility.

The filmmaker who gave us Wendy and Lucy as well as Old Joy and Meek’s Cutoff creates a complex series of scenarios that chisel away at our two protagonists. As the chips and chunks fall with each swing of the mallet, we begin to see a different texture in the stone, as well as the distinct character flaws.

Josh seems sweet and gentle, but we realize his fear makes him dangerous. Similarly, Dena seems smart, together and responsible, but her righteousness makes her arrogant, and arrogance leads to folly.

Together, they don’t seem capable of anything more radical than a sit-in with a stink bomb, but when they hook up with Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), a former soldier with explosives expertise, the skies darken with looming consequences.

In any other director’s hands, this story would probably look like a Jason Bourne movie, complete with cops and some well-intentioned reporter who will break the real news story and save the fish.

But Reichardt knows better than to sell the big lie. She knows most people don’t care enough about dams or continuing environmental degradation to actually do anything concrete.

She knows the world would rather sit and watch the landscape whoosh by through the window, so that’s what she gives us: A series of stunning, slow-moving landscape paintings inhabited by these detailed characters.

The scenes look idyllic and soft, like a John Constable canvas, but if we look closely, we can see that all the landscapes have been transformed by industry. Quiet green forests are sliced open by logging roads. Meandering rivers are stalled by concrete walls and peaceful fields echo with the sound of the Interstate.

These visuals tell the whole story in silence, but they also provide an eloquent context for each character, allowing Reichardt several modes of communication.

Rarely does she go for the point-blank utterance that offers closure and a definitive interpretation. She goes for shades of meaning until actions leave no room for ambiguity, and at that point, we’re already lost in a moral tornado.

Perhaps the most sophisticated movie about humans and the environment ever made, Night Moves will probably prove frustrating to anyone looking for a black and white manual on right and wrong.

But for all those who enjoy slow walks through the marbled halls of art, Night Moves is one piece worth staring at because depending on your angle and the light, it could be a whole different picture.