In the square root velocity framework, the computation of shape space distances and the registration of curves requires solution of a non-convex variational problem. In this paper, we present a new PDE-based method for solving this problem numerically. The method is constructed from numerical approximation of the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman equation for the variational problem, and has quadratic complexity and global convergence for the distance estimate. In conjunction, we propose a backtracking scheme for approximating solutions of the registration problem, which additionally can be used to compute shape space geodesics. The methods have linear numerical convergence, and improved efficiency compared previous global solvers.